Family alleges negligence at Lexington VA Hospital led to dad's death


by Joe Arnold

Posted on May 29, 2014 at 8:14 PM

Updated Thursday, May 29 at 9:04 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – 70 years after Louis Smith earned the Bronze Star after pulling a wounded infantryman to safety on a World War II battlefield in France, his children say Smith’s country failed to come to his aid when he most needed it.

“We were just being pushed to the side, pushed to the curb. That’s what they were doing with our dad. Dad had already served his country – dad could not be of any use to them any longer,” Smith’s daughter Betty Abell said.

Even before the recent revelations about delays in care at Veterans Administration Medical facilities, Smith's children had filed complaints, alleging negligence at the Lexington VA Medical Center led to his death.

“It was horrible. Nobody should have to go through that,” daughter Doris Helm said.

His daughters say Smith was suffering from renal failure and in extreme pain when he sought treatment at the VA in January of 2011.  Yet, they say for 5 days doctors denied his request to be treated by a kidney specialist, a delay they believe sealed their father's fate - prompting a heart attack and a year of dialysis before he died in 2012.

“They weren't there for him,” Helm added.

In a statement, the VA tells WHAS11:

"While we cannot comment on matters that may involve litigation, the Lexington VA Medical Center's most important mission is to make sure Veterans know we're here to provide the quality medical care they have earned and deserve.”

In its letter denying Smith's family tort claim, the VA wrote:

"There is no evidence that an earlier nephrology consult would have affected the care Mr. Smith received," or that any different care would have prevented his subsequent need for dialysis.

Smith's daughters hope his death helps bring to light problems with the VA across the country.

We will feel that everything my Dad went through served a purpose, and a very good purpose.  You know what? He will be a hero, again,” daughter Janette Smith said.

Smith's daughters say the VA was uncooperative when the family decided to transfer him out of the VA into Jewish Hospital in Louisville.

He died one month shy of his 92nd birthday.