Army veteran forced to amputate leg after substandard medical care at VA

Daniel Dennis (Facebook)

A US Army veteran is seeking to strike back at the VA for amputating his leg, an unfortunate event that was the result of substandard medical care.

Former Army Sergeant and family man Daniel Dennis joined the military at 17, serving as an Infantryman with the 10th Mountain Division and deploying to both Afghanistan and Iraq until he was medically discharged following an incident with an IED.

However, while the now-32-year-old still suffers from neck, back and shoulder injuries from the war, his leg was the result of a snow tubing accident that took place two years ago.

“I injured my leg snow-tubing with my six-year-old daughter on Jan. 18, 2014,” said Dennis. “I was at my father-in-law’s at Lafayette, New York. I was standing at the bottom of a double hill to slow my daughter down, but when she came down my foot must have been planted too deep in the snow, and it snapped my tibia when the tube hit me.”

Dennis was injured during a snow tubing accident on January 18, 2014. (Courtesy Photo)
Dennis was injured during a snow tubing accident on January 18, 2014. (Courtesy Photo)

Suffering a common spiral fracture of his right tibia, the veteran received two different diagnoses and treatment plans. As a result, the infection spread to such an extent that his leg had to be amputated.

On his initial entry into the Syracuse VA hospital, Dennis had X-rays taken and was put in a full-leg cast. “I was told right then and there that 95 percent of the breaks like mine need surgery to be corrected,” he said.

Around a week later, he was informed that “people die in surgery” and that his leg was “just fine.”

It was at this point that Dennis had had enough.

“Finally, I requested a copy of my medical records and my X-rays, and I looked at them and saw myself that I wasn’t doing fine,” said Dennis during an interview with Lifezette.

 Dennis claims the Syracuse VA orthopedics left his leg bone with an 8mm gap for months.
Dennis claims the Syracuse VA orthopedics left his leg bone with an 8mm gap for months.

“I got an MRI and the woman who performed it said, ‘I can’t believe you are walking on this.’ That was on a Friday- on that Monday I went to see an orthopedic doctor, and a physician’s assistant said my leg was healed and I was going to be discharged.”

Despite pushing for a second opinion, Dennis kept running into red tape and pitfalls within the VA healthcare system.

A plate that was put in for stability and to realign the leg in 2015. Shortly after the surgery, the hardware broke. (Courtesy photo)
In 2015, a plate that was put in for stability and to realign the leg after it did not heal properly from the VA treatment. Shortly after the surgery, the hardware broke. (Courtesy photo)

“Things didn’t improve,” he said. “I still needed the VA’s approval on everything, and this dragged out the process. My leg has to be amputated due to the VA’s lack of care at every turn, even in handling my paperwork.”

The years that followed would result in further misdiagnosis, poor treatment, resulting in an outside provider having to clean out his wound and install a portable IV pump for antibotics.

“I had a pic line put into me (a portable IV pump) for antibiotics, and I was on that for an extended period of time,” said Dennis. “Among other setbacks, it took the VA five days to get me my oral antibiotics. Infection set in.”

Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

The infection eventually got to the bone, resulting in the need for amputation before it spread to other parts of the body.

As a result of his amputation, Dennis and his family have suffered greatly, facing new obstacles and constant battling over prosthetics and repair.

“Trying to be a husband and a father has taken its toll,” said Dennis. “My youngest daughter, who is three, only knows me as, ‘Daddy, here’s your crutches.’”

Dennis says he is unable to find a lawyer who is willing to go up against the VA, as well as any local news media willing to cover his story.

“No lawyer wants to put out the money up front to go against the government,” he said. “And had there been more pressure on the VA regarding my case due to some media coverage, maybe I would have my leg. At first they seemed interested- but no one wanted to tell my story.”

While the VA is treating Dennis’ leg as “service-connected”, they are not offering any compensation for the resulting loss.

“We’ll just give you disability for this, and lump it in with your other injuries,'” said Dennis, mockingly describing the VA’s actions.

Dennis said the VA also played a part in his firing from his job and subsequent unemployment.

“I’ve lost my job, not only because of my leg, but because the VA wasn’t filling out my disability paperwork correctly,” he said. “They put the wrong dates on my paperwork. I was a lead production welder. Two weeks before I was terminated, I would have been promoted to manager. It was a great career, and I would have been able to do it on crutches or in a wheelchair, but that’s over now.”

Still recovering from his amputation, Dennis holds a lot of resentment towards an organization he feels was supposed to help him.

“The VA is really good at the illusion of helping vets — take the Choice program, for example, where vets can go outside the VA for care,” said Dennis. “No one understands, though, how much red tape you have to go through to get that care. It is an absolute mess trying to get paperwork or anything else dealt with by the VA.”

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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