With the 'Tally Bill', vets could hold the VA accountable when medical malpractice occurs at the hands of a contractor

news

Marine veteran Brian Tally has been fighting for the last three years.


First, he fought to find an answer to the agonizing back pain that landed the once active and fit 42-year-old in a Veterans Affairs emergency room in January 2016. The pain continued for months until Tally sought help outside the department and learned that his VA care providers had mistaken a spine-eating infection for a lower back sprain.

Left with permanent spinal damage, Tally sought to hold the VA accountable for medical malpractice, but in 2017 he was informed that the care provider who made the mistake was a civilian contractor, and so he'd have to bring his medical malpractice lawsuit to state court, rather than federal — a fact he was only made aware of after the statute of limitations for his home state of California had run out.

With the option of a lawsuit closed off to him, Tally turned his attention to changing the VA policy that left him with little legal recourse to sue for damages, and in 2018 garnered support in Washington to introduce the Brian Tally VA Medical Care and Liability Improvement Act, or the "Tally Bill," before that died quietly in Congress in September 2018.

Now, his days of fighting against "the biggest bureaucracy in the country," as Tally called it when he spoke to Task & Purpose in June, might finally be coming to an end.

On July 17, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) introduced a version of the "Tally Bill." If passed, H.R. 3813 would amend the Federal Tort Claims Act, a law which governs how citizens can sue the government for damages, "to ensure that certain health care contractors of the Department of Veterans Affairs are subject to Federal tort claims laws, to improve the accountability of physicians of the Department, and for other purposes," according to the bill's text.

Task & Purpose first reported in June that a new version of the "Tally Bill" was in the works, and Meadows' office confirmed that the recently introduced bill would make the following changes:

  • In the event of medical malpractice, the Department of Veterans Affairs must notify a veteran patient of their care provider's employment status. If the individual is a non-VA care provider — meaning a contractor — then the department must inform the veteran of his or her state's laws, including the statute of limitations for malpractice claims.
  • If the Department of Veterans Affairs fails to do this within a 30-day window, then the department becomes liable, and can be sued for the actions of the non-VA care provider.
  • Finally, the bill adds that if a non-VA care provider is involved in "three separate covered cases during a five-year period" that the VA will revoke his or her ability "to provide health care or treatment at a facility of the Department; and may not enter into any contract or agreement that authorizes the provider to provide health care or treatment at a facility of the Department." In other words, a health care contractor involved in three medical malpractice incidents in five years would be barred from working at the VA.

The provisions are designed to protect veterans from the same situation Tally found himself in three years ago, a spokesman for AMVETS told Task & Purpose in June.

"When you go into a VA hospital, you don't always know who's a contractor and who's a VA employee — that's not revealed to you, even when a wrong is committed," Sherman Gillums, the chief advocacy officer for AMVETS, previously told Task & Purpose. "It's in the federal government's interest not to reveal that fact until the statute of limitations has run. In Brian's case, they admitted the wrong only after the one year had run out for the time they would have had to sue the contractor."

While there's still a long way to go before, or if, the bill becomes law, Tally remains optimistic despite the setbacks he's faced.

"This is the second bill being introduced in Congress in less than 10 months," Tally told Task & Purpose, referring to the first bill by Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) which failed in Congress after Brat lost his reelection bid in 2018, and the reintroduced "Tally Bill" by Meadows.

"I promised myself that when all this stuff went down, this can't happen again," Tally said. "After it happened to me, I had to do something. I had to stand up and fight for what's right."

More than just being the namesake for the legislation, Tally had an active hand in crafting it, he told Task & Purpose. In 2018 he and a group of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances formed an ad hoc legislative team to draft a bill to take to Congress, and he's spent the last year trying to get a version of that bill passed.

"It's become my full-time job," he told Task & Purpose.

Now, he said he's hoping Congress will continue the work he's already started.

"We can do a lot better as a country, and it's going to take all hands on deck."

U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Sandra Welch

This article originally appeared on Military.com.

Inside Forward Operating Base Oqab in Kabul, Afghanistan stands a wall painted with a mural of an airman kneeling before a battlefield cross. Beneath it, a black gravestone bookended with flowers and dangling dog tags displays the names of eight U.S. airmen and an American contractor killed in a horrific insider attack at Kabul International Airport in 2011.

It's one of a number of such memorials ranging from plaques, murals and concrete T-walls scattered across Afghanistan. For the last eight years, those tributes have been proof to the families of the fallen that their loved ones have not been forgotten. But with a final U.S. pullout from Afghanistan possibly imminent, those families fear the combat-zone memorials may be lost for good.

Read More Show Less
DOD photo

After a string of high profile incidents, the commander overseeing the Navy SEALs released an all hands memo stating that the elite Naval Special Warfare community has a discipline problem, and pinned the blame on those who place loyalty to their teammates over the Navy and the nation they serve.

Read More Show Less
Ed Mahoney/Kickstarter

In June 2011 Iraq's defense minister announced that U.S. troops who had deployed to the country would receive the Iraq Commitment Medal in recognition of their service. Eight years later, millions of qualified veterans have yet to receive it.

The reason: The Iraqi government has so far failed to provide the medals to the Department of Defense for approval and distribution.

A small group of veterans hopes to change that.

Read More Show Less
F-16 Fighting Falcon (Photo: US Air Force)

For a cool $8.5 million, you could be the proud owner of a "fully functioning" F-16 A/B Fighting Falcon fighter jet that a South Florida company acquired from Jordan.

The combat aircraft, which can hit a top speed of 1,357 mph at 40,000 feet, isn't showroom new — it was built in 1980. But it still has a max range of 2,400 miles and an initial climb rate of 62,000 feet per minute and remains militarized, according to The Drive, an automotive website that also covers defense topics, WBDO News 96.5 reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less