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Personal Injury and Property Claims Against the Government

Honorably discharged Veteran Peter Brown walked in to the VA Medical Center for an operation to remove shrapnel from his leg and repair the muscle and tendons of his knee, which was injured while in combat. Several weeks later, he was rolled out of the VA Medical Center in a wheel chair, unable to walk or move his leg. A defective tourniquet, negligently applied resulted in serious and permanent nerve damage to his leg.

It is well-known in the military-affiliated community that a veteran may file a claim with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) for a service-connected disability or an injury (“additional disability”[1]) incurred while undergoing treatment or training at a VA. However, it is less well-known that a veteran may also file a claim for this same post-service injury under the Federal Tort Claims Act[2] (“FTCA”).

Captain A. Johnson was on active duty with the United States Army at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Being a team player, she donated blood to a public blood drive sponsored by Walter Reed. At the time, she was informed that her blood would be subjected to routine screening for the AIDS virus. Several days later, Walter Reed doctors and other hospital personnel informed her that she had tested positive for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Soon after, Johnson discovered that she was several weeks pregnant. Doctors at Walter Reed advised her that her child would most certainly be born with AIDS and would not live beyond five years. The doctors urged her to have an abortion rather than to carry her child to term. As a result of this counseling, and for no other reason, she had an abortion. Two months later, she was informed by Walter Reed doctors that there had been an "error" in the "paperwork" and that she did not have AIDS. A. Johnson had donated her blood to a public blood drive. She was under no military orders or compulsion to donate blood at Walter Reed.