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Widow receives $2 million to settle VA malpractice lawsuit

James "Hoz" Hoznor

By KAREN FLORIN | The Day, New London, Conn. | Published: July 12, 2019

NEW LONDON, Conn. (Tribune News Service) — By the time Vietnam veteran James "Hoz" Hoznor was diagnosed with throat cancer, it was too late.

Hoznor, who lived in the Oakdale section of Montville, died July 22, 2017, at age 69, after enduring multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, medication and treatments that left him disabled, disfigured and depressed. He had developed symptoms in April 2014 and sought treatment from Veterans Affairs doctors, but wasn't diagnosed until 18 months later, when he saw civilian doctors. By that time he had stage four, or late stage cancer.

This past week, his wife, Monique, received a $2 million settlement in a medical malpractice case brought against the United States government under the Federal Tort Claims Act, in which private citizens can sue the federal government for injuries caused by a government employee.

Mrs. Hoznor said by phone Wednesday that her husband, who had served as an Army helicopter crew chief during the Tet Offensive in 1967 and 1968, didn't deserve the treatment he received. Following his military service, Hoznor worked at Thames Valley Steel before running his own business, Hoznor Welding, Fabrication and Crane service, for years. He was retired at the time of his death.

"He was a hard worker," Monique Hoznor said. "He saved money for later in life and he didn't get to enjoy it. He had so much to live for. He had lots of things he still wanted to do."

She said she would be using the funds she received (after attorney's fees and Medicare claims) to help family members who are struggling.

New London attorney Kelly E. Reardon said the lawsuit was filed while Hoznor was still alive and the case was settled this past March during a settlement conference with U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Richardson. The funds were distributed through the probate court this past week.

Suing the VA health system was complicated and involved a lot of paperwork, Reardon said. While James Hoznor vs. United States of America doesn't specifically name the physicians as defendants, several of their names are listed in the complaint, including Dr. Cornel Hong, Dr. Prateek Srinet, Dr. Nwanmegah Youhng, Sr. A. Shutosh Pathak and Dr. E. Leon Kier.

According to court documents, Hoznor went to VA doctors in New London and West Haven for care after developing neck pain in the spring of 2014. He had an X-Ray and a CT scan, and saw a specialist for a mass on the base of his tongue, but was told he had a swollen spit gland and sent on his way without any follow-up treatment.

As the condition worsened, he continued to go to the VA doctors and take pain pills until his wife, seeing his swollen neck, told him, "enough is enough," she said.

An oncologist who reviewed Hoznor's medical records for attorney Kelly Reardon and researched survivability rates said Hoznor's chance of surviving went down dramatically because of the 18-month delay.

Mrs. Hoznor said she knows someone who had throat cancer who is "still here" because it was caught early.

"I was glad they had to pay," she said of the settlement.

k.florin@theday.com

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