A recent analysis has revealed that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has paid out about $845 million for medical malpractice cases since 2003. The high point in payouts came in 2012, when the VA settled 454 cases, adding up to a total of $98.3 million in settlements. 2008 saw the largest number of payouts – a total of 462 for that year.
How does this compare to the civilian sector? A New England Journal of Medicine study found that private health systems pay out on about 20% of medical malpractice claims. The VA’s percentage of claims paid is about 25%.
During this same 10-year period, the VA has faced increasing scrutiny for paying bonuses and raises to healthcare practitioners who were providing substandard care. A government accountability study from July revealed that in 2011, the VA gave $160 million in bonuses and performance awards to providers without equating better performance with the extra pay.
VA officials, however, have pointed out that they manage one of the country’s largest medical networks, and that they only receive a relatively low number of claims. For example, in 2012, the year with the highest payout, 6.3 million veterans were treated by the VA, and only 1,544 claims were filed.