Former Marine’s VA malpractice bill picks up steam with AMVETS' support

Matt Saintsing
December 06, 2018 - 11:00 am

Photo by Xinhua/Sipa USA

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AMVETS is throwing its weight behind a former Marine’s mission to allow veterans who received shoddy VA care from independent contractors to sue the department. 

H.R. 7105, the Brian Tally VA Medical Care and Liability Improvement Act, dubbed the "Tally Bill," would place VA healthcare independent contractors on the same legal footing that applies to Department healthcare personnel, giving impacted veterans a chance at justice. 

“We believe passage of this law will address the longstanding problem of breached due process for veterans who suffer disability, as well as survivors who lose loved ones, due to medical malpractice or negligence on the part of the Department of Veterans Affairs independent contractors,” Joe Chenelly, National Executive Director of AMVETS, writes in a letter expressing support for the bill. 

RELATED: A 72-year-old legal loophole sunk his VA malpractice claim. Now this veteran wants to change the law.

Tally was permanently injured when a VA doctor—who turned out to be a contractor—bungled the diagnosis of a staph infection that ate away at his spine. But a legal loophole protects that doctor and others, leaving Tally with no legal recourse. 

“Suing the federal government, or one of its agencies, for a wrongful action is an inherently complex and overwhelming process,” Chenelly continues.  “But it becomes a shell game when victims of medical malpractice are led to believe they are dealing with a federal employee, only to find out later an independent contractor committed the offense.”

Not wanting his situation to impact future veterans who may find themselves in similar cases, Tally met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill in the hopes one would sponsor the legislation that carries his namesake. Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) introduced the bill in October. 

GOP Reps. Barbara Comstock (Va.), Amata Coleman Radewagen (AS-At Large) and Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon (P.R. At-Large) are co-sponsors, but the bill remains a far cry from a vote either in committee or on the House floor. 

RELATED: New bill aims to protect veterans from lousy VA contractors.

Tally hopes the recent support from AMVETS will usher that along. 

“I was hoping that (AMVETS) would see the importance of this bill and how it essentially affects all veterans, we received just that,” Tally tells Connecting Vets. “I'm absolutely honored that AMVETS saw the need for legislative correction and is now a partner in playing a monumental role in changing a 72-year legal loophole that has destroyed so many lives.”

He says his permanent injuries stem from VA’s misdiagnosis and botched treatment in 2016, only finding out about his spinal inflection after receiving a surgery outside of the VA thanks to the Veterans Choice program. 

But by the time the VA blamed the physician, an independent contractor, it was too late. If the doctor were a VA employee, however, Tally would have had additional legal options to bring his case to federal court. 

Tally hopes to see the bill signed into law, so veterans who receive poor VA care will not be left on their own, even if they’re an independent contractor. 

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