Thursday, January 31, 2013

Viegas v. Shinseki

Viegas v. Shinseki, 705 F.3d 1374 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 31, 2013) In this case, a disabled veteran who was receiving physical therapy at a VA medical facility was injured when he fell in the bathroom after the handicap bar came loose from the wall. In assessing “causation” under 38 U.S.C. § 1151 (VA’s version of a medical malpractice claim), the Federal Circuit appeared to ease the requirements of showing that a veteran’s injury was “directly” caused by the “actual” medical care provided by VA personnel. The Court stated that “VA cannot reasonably furnish hospital care[] or medical treatment to disabled veterans without also providing access to handicapped-accessible restrooms,” and found that the veteran’s injury was not “merely ‘coincident’” with his physical therapy, “but was instead caused by the VA’s failure to properly maintain and install the equipment required so that that treatment could take place.” The Court held that “while the medical treatment provided by the VA typically includes ‘direct involvement with VA staff,’ [] this does not mean that it does not also include the medications and equipment necessary to provide such treatment.”

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