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Veteran with cancer sues Phoenix VA for $50M, alleges negligent care

PHOENIX — An Army veteran filed a $50 million lawsuit this week against the Phoenix Veterans Administration hospital alleging negligent care led to his delayed cancer diagnosis.

In the lawsuit, 44-year-old Steven Cooper claimed he tried for months to get an appointment at the hospital but was repeatedly denied, rescheduled or had his appointment canceled by VA staff before seeing a nurse practitioner in December 2011.

Cooper’s lawyer, Gregory Patton, said the nurse practitioner found abnormalities with Cooper’s prostate, but failed to order further testing or a follow up.

In December 2012, Cooper saw a VA doctor who ordered a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. After a biopsy, Cooper, an 18-year veteran, was diagnosed with Stage Four prostate cancer.

“Had they [VA] done what was required by the medical standard of care and done PSA testing, they would have been able to treat Steve’s prostate cancer a year before,” Patton said. “Instead, they caused a delay of at least a year, which allowed the aggressive cancer to spread to become incurable and untreatable.”

Patton said the $50 million sought by the suit goes beyond pain and suffering.

“Just because Steve’s life is priceless doesn’t mean it’s worthless,” he said. “We think that is a reasonable value on Steven Cooper’s life.”

The Phoenix VA does not comment on pending litigation. However, spokesperson Jean Schaefer said the hospital has worked over the last two years to make changes in its urology department, including hiring more full-time staff.

“We’ve also taken a number of steps to increase the timeliness of appointments as well as how we process consults to that specific department,” she said.

Last month, a marine who was hit by a car after being discharged by the Phoenix Veterans Affairs hospital filed a $15.1 million lawsuit against the facility. The federal government has not yet responded to the case.

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