One Man's Nightmarish Journey Through the Troubled VATweet
October 6, 2014
“This is a case where a patient went in for a simple vascular surgery on his left leg and came out with an amputated right foot and scrotum.”
That’s the way a Department of Veterans Affairs internal analysis describes what happened in 2005 to an Army veteran named Steven P. Massong at a VA hospital in California.
But that was just the beginning of this veteran’s ordeal. What started as a medical nightmare became a journey no less morbidly absurd as it wended its way through the VA bureaucracy, illuminating strains in the system that is responsible for helping veterans.
Massong’s story shows how hard it can be for a veteran to fight the VA, and how veterans’ claims for benefits can get stuck in an administrative loop. It shows how federal law limits malpractice suits against the VA, thereby insulating the Department from a source of accountability. It shows how the government has made broad and costly promises to people who served in the armed forces—not just those injured in combat—even as it has struggled to keep its commitments. And it shows how veterans caught up in the system can suffer.
David Hilzenrath is the Chief Investigative Reporter for the Project On Government Oversight.
Topics: Government Accountability
Related Content: Veterans Affairs
Authors: David S. Hilzenrath
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