Veteran told to wait 9 months for spine surgery; seeks care outside of VA: 7 things to know

Mackenzie Garrity -   Print  |

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Bain Tally began experiencing severe back pain in January 2016. He called his primary care physician through the Department of Veterans Affairs who prescribed painkillers over the phone, according to ABC 7.

However, the painkillers did not stop the pain. Mr. Tally then sought out care for months, only to seek care outside of the VA.

Here are seven things to know:

1. After the pain didn't subside, Mr. Tally visited the VA emergency room in Loma Linda, Calif. During two visits, the nurse practitioner conducted X-rays and diagnosed Mr. Tally with a low back sprain. The veteran was told to stretch.

2. Mr. Tally followed up with his primary care physician, who works at the VA clinic in Murrieta, Calif. The primary care physician agreed with the nurse practitioner and instructed Mr. Tally to continue stretching. She also prescribed Mr. Tally additional pain medication.

3. The primary care physician did request a consult with an orthopedic specialist. However, Mr. Tally was unable to schedule an appointment through the VA. Mr. Tally then decided to pay out-of-pocket for an MRI.

4. The MRI showed Mr. Tally was suffering from severe spinal stenosis. He showed the MRI to his primary care physician, who recommended Mr. Tally undergo spine surgery. The VA, however, would not be able to perform the surgery for nine months.

5. Due to the nine month wait, the VA agreed to pay for a surgeon outside the system. Mr. Tally went to Jean-Jacques Abitbol, MD, of San Diego-based California Spine Group. During surgery, Dr. Abitbol found an aggressive staph infection eating at Mr. Tally's spine.

6. Postoperatively, Mr. Tally sought out a lawsuit against the VA. After filing the suit and waiting the six months for a response, Mr. Tally was informed his primary care physician was a contract VA employee, meaning the system was not legally responsible for negligence.

7. Throughout the six-month waiting period, Mr. Tally also exhausted California's one-year statute of limitations of medical malpractice. Now, Mr. Tally is traveling to Washington, D.C., to propose the Tally Bill. The bill would require the VA to identify contract providers to patients and require the VA to take responsibility for the contracted employees.

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