Our Atlanta wrongful death attorneys are, like many Americans, following the frustrating stories of Veterans Affairs backlogs. People who fought for our country are finding themselves cheated out of the high quality, prompt medical care they deserve. One recent story concerns a Georgia family that will receive more than $100,000 from the Department of Veterans Affairs because a VA hospital in Augusta, Georgia, failed to properly treat Jimmy Lee Stapleton, a 68 year-old veteran, for gallbladder cancer. Mr. Stapleton, who served in the Army from 1965 to 1967, suffered from two years of neglect and substandard care in three different VA hospitals before receiving his cancer diagnosis. He died at home on June 2.
Mr. Stapleton was first diagnosed with gallstones at the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in 1998. The surgeons chose not to remove the gallstones at the time. After suffering in pain for 13 years, doctors diagnosed him with pancreatitis in 2011. In November of that year, doctors at the VA hospital decided that his gallbladder and part of his liver needed to be removed. Mr. Stapleton underwent surgery at the Atlanta VA Medical Center in early 2012. During the operation, doctors did not find any evidence of cancer, but ordered Mr. Stapleton to come for periodic testing and chemotherapy to prevent a potential spread of the disease. However, subsequent appointments were cancelled at the last minute by all three Georgia VA hospitals. The Stapletons repeatedly requested referral to a private hospital, but their requests were denied. Mr. Stapleton’s wife, Carolyn, later stated, “He was sent on a merry-go-round of canceled appointments from one hospital to another.” In August 2013, doctors finally diagnosed Mr. Stapleton with Stage 4 gallbladder cancer.
The family argued that the VA should have allowed Mr. Stapleton to receive treatment in a private medical center after Georgia’s three VA hospitals were unable to see him. After settling with the VA over Mr. Stapleton’s death, Carolyn Stapleton said, “The outcome’s unfair, and I truly believe if the VA had done their job, my husband would still be here today. No one should have to go through the same torture my husband and other veterans have, and I hope they don’t.”