CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK/WBOY)- A lawyer representing the estate of a U.S. Army veteran who died from low blood sugar while at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg has filed a notice of claim with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, alleging that the veteran died as a result of homicide. The claim also alleges that nine to 10 other patients died at the VA under similar circumstances.
Now, Senator Joe Manchin, a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is demanding answers from the Inspector General who is investigating the incident’s.
“We’re pushing the Inspector General to wrap it up. If you’re coming to a conclusion wrap it up so we can give confidence and closure to everybody,” said Sen. Manchin, (D-West Virginia).
Ret. Army Sgt. Felix Kirk McDermott, 82, of Ellenboro, was admitted to the VA on April 6, 2018, after developing pneumonia, and his condition improved. McDermott was not diagnosed with diabetes and did not have a history of ever taking any medication for the treatment of diabetes. On April 9, while still at the VA, McDermott unexpectedly developed shortness of breath. VA staff found that McDermott’s blood sugar level was very low, a condition known as hypoglycemia. Medical efforts to raise his blood sugar level were unsuccessful, and McDermott died later that morning.
“You start to feel a sense of frustration and anger. How does this happen?” said Capt. James McCormick, Military Order of the Purple Heart.
In October 2018, inspectors with the VA Office of the Inspector General contacted McDermott’s family and said nine or 10 other patients of the Clarksburg VA were the result of being wrongfully injected with insulin in their abdomens, with her father being one of the last known victims. At that time, McDermott’s body was disinterred and sent to Dover Air Force Base for an autopsy.
The autopsy showed that McDermott had been injected with insulin in his left abdomen and that there were no hospital orders for the injection. Following the autopsy and investigation, the Armed Forces Medical Examiner ruled McDermott’s death a homicide. Investigators told McDermott’s family that they do have a person of interest in the deaths of multiple VA patients.
The claim lists a series of ways the VA was negligent in relation to McDermott’s death:
- Knowing that nine to 10 other patients died under similar circumstances prior to McDermott being admitted, he and his family should have been alerted so that they could make informed decisions about his care
- By failing to adequately staff the hospital
- By failing to investigate the causes of the previous deaths
- By failing to properly reconcile medications
- By failing to properly train staff
The claim, which is the precursor to a lawsuit, asks for $1 million for personal injury and $5 million for wrongful death, along with funeral costs and loss of income.
Senator Manchin told WOWK 13 News on Tuesday that when the report comes out if it does not give the families closure, a U.S. Senate investigation could be warranted. Until answers are found, Captain McCormick wants Veterans to continue going to the VA and not let this tragedy scare them away.
“I can tell you I will take a personal interest in making sure that anything we can do to help correct this, we will do,” said McCormick.
Wesley Walls, Chief of Public Affairs and Community Relations at Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center sent 13 News this statement:
Allegations of potential misconduct you may have heard about in media reports do not involve any current Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center employees.
Immediately upon discovering these serious allegations, Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center leadership brought them to the attention of VA’s inspector general while putting safeguards in place to ensure the safety of each and every one of our patients.
The department informed the staffs of Senators Capito and Manchin and Rep. McKinley of these allegations August 7, 2018, and they are aware of the ongoing investigation.
VA is cooperating fully with the inspector general’s ongoing investigation, and for additional questions we refer you to them.