News4 Investigates: Veteran’s push for change in the VA system takes him to Congress
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - When Michael Rardin told News4 Investigates about the scars surrounding his chest, he only wanted one thing – for the VA to discuss and acknowledge his pain.
“Came out of surgery with everything sewed up, but my left pectoral muscle was, I could feel it just hanging on,” Rardin told News4.
Veteran Brian Tally wasn’t shocked to hear about what happened to Rardin. He’s been down this road before, battling his own fight with the VA over healthcare and accountability.
“I get emails every single day from the veteran community, veterans that are suffering, that have fallen through the cracks, that are feeling hopeless, that are feeling helpless,” Tally said.
His own feelings of alleged medical mistreatment started in 2016 when the Marine went to the VA for back pain. Tally said the VA diagnosed him with a back sprain, prescribing him medication and telling him to go home and stretch. Tally said his wife begged for a blood test and MRI, but they were denied. The pain became unbearable.
Tally went to a private MRI imaging center where they paid out of pocket for the scan and discovered structural damage in his spine. He went back to the VA. Because of the 9-month wait time, Tally said they agreed to send him to a civilian hospital. It was on the operating table that doctors discovered he was suffering from a bone-eating staph infection, an illness that aggressively ate all three levels of his spine and bladder. He decided to file a claim for damages against the VA.
“They sent a letter denying everything based on a technicality and an employment status that stated the VA is no longer responsible for the negligence that occurred because the clinician that they held responsible for it was not considered to be a U.S. Government employee, but rather an independent contractor. So, they saw their way out of my case completely and did an about face and left me and my family holding the bag,” Tally said.
It’s a loophole Tally said has been on the books for 74 years. He took his fight all the way to Congress, drafting what became known as the Brian Tally Bill. Nearly five years after battling an illness that almost killed him, then President Donald Trump signed the bill into law in January 2021.
“When I was at my lowest, most vulnerable point, the most painful time in my life, I didn’t know what to do, so I stood up to fight for what’s right,” Tally said.
Because of the bill, the VA now has 30 days to give all veterans the employment status of the workers listed on their forms, reducing the long wait time for crucial medical information if veterans were to file a tort claim and ensuring transparency and accountability from the Office of General Counsel.
As for Rardin, he said he’s not done fighting his case.
After his story aired, Rardin continued to email the VA, hoping someone will finally give him the answers he feels he deserves about his standard of care.
It’s something Tally wants as well as he continues to fight for veterans’ health.
“Mistakes will happen at the VA. Again, nobody is perfect. But when mistakes happen, there needs to be accountability and transparency when they do happen,” Tally said.
The Tally Law is new and protects millions of veterans. Tally said his next mission is letting veterans this is a law that they have available.
Copyright 2022 WSMV. All rights reserved.