Veterans Dying of Narcotics Overdoses

Nebraska residents might be startled to hear that veterans are dying from accidental prescription narcotics overdoses at a significantly higher rate than their civilian counterparts. According to in investigative report released by CBS, veterans’ access to such medications and the number of drugs they are prescribed are not well monitored. CBS collected data from five states with large populations of veterans as part of their report.

According to one doctor who worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs, administrators push for doctors to sign off on prescriptions to “keep veterans happy,” but many of the patients being prescribed pain medications are also being treated for mental health disorders or other conditions and require close monitoring of their medications to ensure accidental overdoes don’t occur. Yet, they aren’t getting that: According to the doctor, some patients receive narcotics prescriptions for pain associated with a body part that has not been examined by a doctor in years, and some doctors are signing off on prescriptions for patients they don’t even see in person.

These accidental overdoses could lead to numerous types of veterans’ claims being filed. In one case, a 35-year-old man who came home from Iraq and Afghanistan had chronic back pain. Over the course of a year, his wife says, the VA prescribed him eight different pain and psychiatric medications. After prescribing him Percocet in addition to the eight medications he already took, the man died from “overmedication,” the effects of five of his medications combined, according to the coroner. The woman stated that she plans to sue the VA for her husband’s death.

An attorney might be able to assist the woman in preparing her lawsuit against the VA. The attorney could make use of data revealing a causative relationship between a higher incidence of veterans’ deaths with the VA’s lack of oversight in regard to the powerful medications being prescribed.

Source: CBS, “Veterans dying from overmedication”, Jim Axelrod, September 19, 2013.