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Lawsuit Accuses Pittsburgh VA of Failing to Tell Veteran About Cancer Test

A lawsuit by a combat veteran says the Pittsburgh Veterans Administration hospital failed to tell him about a positive cancer test for three years.

As a result, the lawsuit said, veteran Kevin Martin has been forced to endure painful treatments for prostate cancer.

“It’s aggravating. It brings out a lot of anger because I didn’t know anything about this,” Martin said.

The VA is fighting the lawsuit as it contends with criticism from members of Congress about staffing and quality of care.

Martin served 18 years in the Army, including tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. Since retiring, he has received annual physicals at the Pittsburgh VA.

Martin said he regularly got a clean bill of health, including in 2019 when he had a screening test for prostate cancer called a PSA. 

PSA results over a four are considered abnormal and a potential cancer risk. But Martin’s PSA in 2019 was 7.5. Yet no one from the VA ever told him about his abnormal result, the lawsuit said.

“I didn’t know that. I wasn’t told,” Martin said.

Nor was he told about the high PSA when he got physicals in 2020 and 2021, he said. In fact, a physician’s assistant told him his lab results were “very good,” according to the lawsuit.

In 2022, he had another PSA. The lawsuit said his score was 29 — four times his previous reading and seven times the risk level for cancer.

That forced Martin to undergo a series of painful tests to treat prostate cancer.

“It was awful. I mean, it was painful emotionally and physically,” Martin said.

“His treatment fell through the cracks,” said attorney Ben Cohen, who is representing Martin.

Cohen said the outcome would have been different if Martin had been told about his elevated PSA three years earlier.

“The treatment that he did undergo certainly took its toll on Kevin, and there’s no guarantee that the treatment that he had will eradicate his problem,” Cohen said.

In court papers, the VA denies any negligence in Martin’s treatment. A VA spokesperson declined to comment on the litigation.

Martin said he hopes the VA learns from his experience.

“Pay attention to your patient. Pay attention to them,” Martin said.

In January, Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman and Reps. Chris Deluzio and Summer Lee wrote to the director of the Pittsburgh VA Health System, expressing concerns about patient care.

Specifically, they asked the VA to decrease staff turnover and improve patient care. They said the Pittsburgh VA was one of only nine VA medical centers and healthcare systems out of 114 rated to receive a one-star rating from recent Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ratings.

VA Pittsburgh spokesperson Shelley Nulph said they are now meeting national averages for new hires and CMS ratings.

“At VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, our goal is to provide world-class care to every Veteran who walks through our doors, and we will never settle for anything less. We are laser-focused on improving the level of care at VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, because Veterans deserve the very best,” Nulph said in a statement.