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Negligence played role in VA's failure to diagnose brain injuries

The Department of Veterans Affairs is no stranger to criticism, but a recent revelation of improper medical treatment came from an internal investigation rather than elsewhere. The VA admitted negligence in the case of tens of thousands of veterans who were not adequately examined for traumatic brain injuries. This failure to diagnose injuries as devastatingly serious as brain injuries can have severe consequences for affected patients.

Traumatic brain injuries should not be diagnosed by a general physician. Like many other diseases, New Jersey physicians typically refer patients who are suffering from symptoms of a serious brain injury to specialists who were trained to diagnose and treat such illnesses. Neurosurgeons, neurologists and psychiatrists are the specialists who typically play roles in the diagnosis of traumatic brain injuries in patients. For 24,000 veterans seeking an accurate diagnosis from the VA, these specialists were never called in.

An internal review of the years 2007 to 2015 discovered that thousands of veterans experiencing symptoms of traumatic brain injuries were not examined by specialists qualified to do so. The VA has since sent letters to the affected veterans with offers of repeat exams with the correct specialists. For veterans denied disability benefits due to an inability to medically prove the extent of their injuries, these subsequent examinations could be life-changing.

Patients in New Jersey should be able to expect that the correct specialist will view test results and render an appropriate diagnosis based on their symptoms. The failure to diagnose an injury as severe as a traumatic brain injury is not only negligent but also grossly irresponsible. Injuries suffered from inaccurate treatment because of a missed diagnosis can usually be compensated for through the successful navigation of a medical malpractice claim filed by either the victim, or his or her surviving family if the victim has died.

Source:, "VA Failed To Properly Treat 24,000 Vets For Brain Injuries", Jonah Bennett, June 2, 2016

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Alan D. Bell
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