NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – When Michael Rardin told News4 Investigates about the scars around his chest, all he wanted was for the VA to discuss and acknowledge his pain.
“Coming out of surgery with everything stitched up but my left pectoral muscle was, I could feel it just stuck,” Rardin told News4.
Veteran Brian Tally wasn’t shocked when he heard what happened to Rardin. He’s walked this path before and fought his own battle with the VA over health care and accountability.
“I get emails every day from the veteran community, from veterans who are suffering, who have fallen through the cracks, who feel hopeless, who feel helpless,” Tally said.
Brian Tally fought VA Hospital for five years to fill a void that almost took his life.(photo submitted)
His own feelings of alleged medical abuse began in 2016 when the Marine went to the VA for back pain. Tally said prosecutors diagnosed him with a back sprain, prescribed him medication and told him to go home and stretch. Tally said his wife asked for a blood test and an MRI but they were denied. The pain became unbearable.
Tally went to a private MRI imaging center where they paid for the scan out of pocket and discovered structural damage to his spine. He went back to the VA. Because of the 9-month wait, Tally said they agreed to send him to a civilian hospital. On the operating table, doctors discovered he was suffering from a bone-eating staph infection, a disease that aggressively attacked all three levels of his spine and bladder. He decided to file a claim for damages against the VA.
“They sent a letter refusing everything on the basis of a formality and employment status stating that the VA is no longer responsible for the negligence because the clinician they held responsible was not an employee of the US government was viewed, but rather as an independent contractor. So they worked their way completely out of my suitcase, did a U-turn, and left me and my family with the bag,” Tally said.
It’s a loophole that Tally says has been on the books for 74 years. He took his fight all the way to Congress and drafted what became known as the Brian Tally Bill. Nearly five years after battling a disease that nearly killed him, President Donald Trump signed the law into law in January 2021.
“When I was at my lowest, most vulnerable point, the most painful time of my life, I didn’t know what to do, so I stood up to fight for what was right,” Tally said.
Under the bill, the VA now has 30 days to provide all veterans with the employment status of workers listed on their forms, reducing the long wait for critical medical information when veterans file claims and ensuring transparency and accountability on the part of veterans become Office of the General Counsel.
As for Rardin, he said he’s not done with his fight.
After his story aired, Rardin continued to email the VA in hopes that someone would finally give him the answers he felt he deserved about his standard of care.
That’s what Tally wants, and he continues to fight for the health of veterans.
“In the VA, mistakes will happen. Again, no one is perfect. But when mistakes happen, there needs to be accountability and transparency when they happen,” Tally said.
The counting law is new and protects millions of veterans. Tally said his next mission is to make this law available to veterans.
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