For some veterans, it may have been safer to stay in the war zone than to come home.

The number of medical malpractice payouts from the VA hospital system increased by 12% within a10-year, and that only represents roughly one-fourth of the number of actual cases that were filed.

In many cases, there was no expectation of injury or death. In 2012, the biggest medical malpractice payout ($17.5 million) was to a vet who was left permanently paralyzed from a stroke triggered by tooth extraction. According to an investigative report, there were nearly 4,500 medical malpractice cases filed against the Department of Veteran Affairs over a 10-year period.

But on the other hand, the VA is faring just as badly as the private sector. This is according to Harvard University assistant professor Dr. Anupam Jena based on an analysis of the data gathered in a study participated in by 40,000 doctors. It cannot be denied, however, that VA hospital doctors have no motivation to take preventive measures against medical errors because they cannot be directly sued.

On the other hand, doctors in the private sector can be directly sued, but that does not seem to be making much of an impact. In many cases, it is not what doctors do, but what they don’t that leads to tragedy. In Massachusetts, a missed diagnosis that led to a patient’s death led to a $16.7 million award verdict with the help of a Massachusetts medical malpractice lawyer. The patient’s daughter filed suit against a radiologist who failed to detect signs of lung cancer in a chest X-ray done 18 months before the patient succumbed to that same disease.

The reason behind the rise in medical malpractice is uncertain. It could be because healthcare professionals are becoming more negligent but it could also mean patients are more aware of their rights and protections under the law. If you suspect medical malpractice, you should not hesitate to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible to clarify the case for you.