Veterans Benefits - Unaffected By Filing a Lawsuit against VA

Does filing a lawsuit against the government affect other benefits that veterans or their families may receive? That’s a common question of many military personnel. The answer, according to Joe Callahan, a Virginia attorney and retired naval officer who represents injured veterans and military dependants in medical malpractice claims against the Veterans’ Administration, is no.

Callahan says that service-connected disability pension payments are not affected by bringing a federal tort claim or, if need be, prosecuting a medical malpractice lawsuit against the United States. However, he also warns that there can be circumstances under which benefits other than disability pensions will be offset against a recovery in the setting of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). He provided the following example:

Let’s say that a veteran is the victim of a medical mistake on the part of VA healthcare providers, and he or she applies for non-service-connected compensation, also called 1151 benefits. If granted, that application can result in a monthly compensation payment, which is usually modest.

If the same vet goes on to recover a lump-sum payment under the FTCA, then their monthly 1151 payments will be stopped for the period of time it takes to offset the larger award given under the FTCA. Not surprisingly, Uncle Sam doesn’t permit a double recovery of disability benefits and tort damages for the same injury. Also, need-based pension payments, including aid-and attendance payments and widows or survivors benefits, can sometimes be offset against a lump sum recovery from a tort claim.

For the veteran, it usually comes down to deciding whether to accept payment from the government in dribs and drabs, which may be revised or cancelled at any time, vs. a substantial lump-sum payment, according to Callahan. He says that it’s best for any veteran or survivor interested in pursuing a Federal Tort Claim for medical negligence to discuss their specific benefit situation with their attorney at the outset of the process.

If you or a family member has been injured due to medical malpractice by the Veterans’ Administration, contact an attorney whose practice focuses in this area of the law to discuss your situation. Consultations are free, without obligation and strictly confidential. To contact an experienced attorney, please click here. We may be able to help.