Quality of care at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Phoenix has once again proven to be severely lacking. Earlier this week, a judge ruled in favor of Steven Cooper, an 18-year Army veteran, in his medical malpractice suit against the VA. A nurse practitioner who performed an examination on Cooper “breached the standard of care more testing,” which lead Cooper to a shocking diagnosis less than a year later.
Cooper was experiencing abdominal pains and visited the Phoenix VA in 2011, where he received a prostate examination. The nurse practitioner performing the exam found abnormalities, yet did not refer Cooper for more testing or to a specialist. 11 months later when Cooper again visited the VA, he was told he had stage-IV prostate cancer. Unsurprisingly, Cooper then sought medical attention from a private doctor.
History has proven that the standard of care at Phoenix is inadequate. Hundreds of veterans have died while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA. The VA’s inspector general stated one of those patients may have lived had he been seen in time. All the while, Phoenix sees a constant shuffling of new directors who seem to make little impact or come in with troubles of their own. The culture is not addressed at the Phoenix VA, and thus quality and timeliness of care never change. Until there is actual accountability for those who are guilty of misconduct and choice for veterans to seek care in the private sector when the VA takes too long, Phoenix will remain a one-star-rated facility and veterans will continue to die.
Steven Cooper was awarded $2.5 million for pain, suffering, and lost earnings, but he stated: “I’m still going to die in a few years, so that’s irrelevant.” The money was not the point for Cooper, rather the principle. Cooper has drawn attention to the Phoenix VA and VA in general not living up to their end of the bargain – caring for those who served.
Cooper said that he will “fight ‘til my last breath so these veterans can get access to decent health care.” We take statements like that for granted, but for Steven Cooper, it carries a whole lot more meaning.
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