Steven Cooper, an 18-year U.S. Army Veteran, was awarded $2.5 million in a malpractice lawsuit filed against the Phoenix VA on March 6. Cooper is one of many veterans that was forced to wait over a year to secure an appointment at the Phoenix health center. The Army veteran developed stage 4 prostate cancer due to the long wait times and improper treatment.
Fellow veterans from the Phoenix area packed the courtroom as the verdict was handed down to show support for Cooper. The ruling is being seen as a huge victory for other veterans that received sub-standard or neglectful care. Cooper hopes his victory inspires other veterans to hold the VA accountable.
Cooper added that the money is of little consolation.
“They could’ve made a $200 million verdict. I’m still going to die in a few years, so that’s irrelevant,” he said.
Doctors tell Cooper he has less than five years to live. He first started experiencing abdominal pain in 2011. He attempted to schedule an appointment at the facility for over one year. His complaint from the lawsuit states:
Because of various and systemic problems with the VA system, the VAMC continuously denied MR. COOPER access to healthcare. For example, if MR. COOPER was able to obtain an appointment, the VAMC would schedule the appointment for months later, then, many times, cancel the appointment forcing him to attempt to reschedule. Between June 2011 and December 2011, MR. COOPER repeatedly called and visited the VAMC to schedule an appointment with a primary care physician, but was told there were no appointments available and that the VAMC would contact him when an appointment with a primary care physician became available.
When he finally obtained an appointment he was seen by a nurse practitioner, not a physician. It was found that his prostate was enlarged and irregularly shaped, but no follow-up tests were ordered. He was not referred to another physician.
After one year his symptoms had not subsided. He was able to schedule an appointment with a doctor who performed a biopsy. When the tests were returned Cooper was informed he had terminal prostate cancer.
After consulting a private doctor, a radical prostatectomy was performed, extending Cooper’s life by five years, at the most. U.S. Magistrate Michelle H. Burns awarded him $2.5 million for his pain, suffering and lost earnings.