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Rep. Meadows introduces Marine vet’s ‘Tally Bill’ to close VA malpractice loophole

Marine veteran Brian Tally and AMVETS Chief Advocacy Officer Sherman Gillums Jr. meeting with members of Congress. (Photo courtesy of Brian Tally)
July 22, 2019

A disabled Marine veteran’s efforts to change VA medical malpractice law has had a breakthrough – his bill was just reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Former Marine Brian Tally is the driving force behind the “Tally Bill” that was reintroduced Wednesday by Rep. Mark Meadows as H.R. 3813, which seeks to apply federal tort claims laws to currently exempted VA medical contractors so they may finally be held accountable for their malpractice errors.

“I am extremely honored to have Congressman Mark Meadows take the lead on this legislation and introduce this extraordinary ‘VA Accountability’ bill that will protect all veterans who seek treatment at VA Hospitals and clinics,” Tally told American Military News recently.

Meadows joined Tally’s fight after Tally’s diligent meetings with members of Congress last year, and again this year. He has chronicled his efforts on his Facebook page, Rally Around Tally.

“We owe our veterans the absolute best healthcare we can provide, so it’s both heartbreaking and unacceptable to read about stories like that of Brian Tally. What happened to Brian, and others like him, must never be allowed to happen again. It’s our responsibility to make sure we provide our veterans all of the information they need to make quick, informed decisions about their healthcare, and hold our government accountable to make sure we get our servicemembers high quality care,” Meadows said Monday in a press release.

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“I want to thank Brian Tally for working with us on this bill, and remind him—along with all of our veterans—of a clear message: you stepped up to the plate for our country. It’s now our turn to step up to the plate for you. My hope is that with this bill, we can take another step in that process of better stepping up to serve our veterans,” Meadows added.

“We are honored that Congressman Meadows has answered that call to service, and is now taking the necessary steps, and will be playing a monumental role in effectively closing a 73-year legal loophole that has destroyed the lives of veterans and their families for generations!” Tally said.

“Together as one, we can, and we will see this through!” he added.

The 75-year-old veterans organization American Veterans (AMVETS) has been working with Tally on his efforts in Congress.

“AMVETS is pleased to hear that Representative Mark Meadows has reintroduced the bill, H.R. 3813, during the current session of Congress. This is a renewed effort to ensure veterans who entrust their health and welfare to the VA healthcare system have greater protections and due process should that trust get breached,” AMVETS Chief Advocacy Officer Sherman Gillums Jr. told American Military News.

“The worst time in a veteran’s life often occurs in the event of a disabling condition or debilitating disease. The second worse time is when treatment for those conditions falls below the standard of care and no one is held accountable. This bill, if passed, will ensure our brave men and women who served are no longer victimized by a system that offers very few protections right now in the event of medical malpractice. We urge our legislators, regardless of political party, to join Representative Meadows in supporting this bill,” Gillums Jr. added.

By removing the exemption of VA independent contractors from the federal tort law, Tally wants to make sure independent contractors can be held accountable for medical malpractice claims like the nightmare he experienced a few years ago.

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In January 2016, Tally visited the VA for sudden, debilitating back pain. He was misdiagnosed by an independent contractor and sent home with pain pills that didn’t relieve his pain. When his condition worsened, he paid out of pocket for an MRI – a test the VA refused to do. Using the VA Choice Act, he took the results to a private doctor where he finally got an answer.

A “bone-eating staph infection” had eaten away at Tally’s spine, disc and tissue. It could’ve been caught by a blood test or images of his spine, but neither of those was ordered by the VA.

Tally is left permanently disabled with devastating effects on his body, for which he’ll need numerous other procedures and surgeries.

When he tried to file a claim with the VA, he discovered that the doctor who misdiagnosed him was an independent contractor. He could only file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the independent contractor with the state court.

However, by the time he learned of this news, the statute of limitations had expired. Had the doctor been an employee of the VA, Tally would’ve had an additional year to bring a case.

Tally was left with no options of recourse.

“They claimed responsibility 100 percent and then they just blamed it on some 73-year-old legal loophole,” he said.

Tally’s medical woes aren’t over, but he hopes the bill will ensure independent contractors are held accountable so another veteran doesn’t have to suffer the way he has.

“I’ve got the three diseases now in my spine. I’ve got six herniated discs in my neck. My whole spine has been compromised,” he had told American Military News last year.

The physical damage extended to his kidney and bladder, stomach problems, and such severe atrophy in one leg that he walks with a gimp that further damages his spine. He’s also left with anxiety and depression over the permanent changes in his life.

“All I want is action. I know it’s too late for me,” Tally said. “We’re doing this for accountability and action. If you screw up, you’ll be held accountable.”