BECKLEY, WV (LOOTPRESS) – A settlement has been reached in the Beckley VA Medical Center sexual abuse case, according to WVVA-TV.
The Bluefield station said the VA will pay more than $10 million to the 62 patients who reported sexual abuse by
Dr. Jonathan Yates at the hospital two years ago.
Attorney Stephen New of the firm New, Taylor and Associates represented 56 of the patients. He confirmed WVVA’s report.
The other six were represented by Eric Buckner and Mark Staun.
New told the station his firm believed the value to be a lot more, but the amount was capped under the state’s malpractice laws.
Yates, 51, of Bluefield, Virginia, was indicted on five counts of depriving veterans of their civil rights under color of law, and two counts of abusive sexual contact.
The former doctor pleaded guilty to three counts of depriving veterans of their civil rights under color of law by sexually abusing them.
At a plea hearing, Yates admitted that “he rubbed the genitals of two veterans, and digitally penetrated a third veteran’s rectum under the guise of legitimate medicine, when in fact he acted without a legitimate medical purpose.”
He was sentenced to 25 years in a federal penitentiary.
Announcement of the settlement Friday brought new demands for further investigation of how Yates was hired and how the abuse was allowed to happen and continue. It also brought to light continued questions about new State Republican Chair Mark Harris’ role in the scandal.
Harris was chief of staff at the facility and was forced to resign at the time although VA officials said his resignation was not related to the abuse allegations. He is a church pastor and has not practiced medicine since he left the VA facility.
Harris, who served as Raleigh County’s GOP chair, was elected state Republican head two months ago despite questions about the VA fiasco.
New said he would still like to see the results of the VA Office of the Inspector General’s investigation. He also believes Congressional hearings by Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin are warranted. Capito has called for such hearings. She said she reserved judgment on Harris.
“We did what we set out to do. Jonathan Yates is in jail hopefully for the rest of his life. He doesn’t have a medical license. He will never have a medical license. And we got the veterans compensation for the horrible things they went through,” New told the station.
In a phone interview with WVVA News on Friday, Harris said that while he was involved in the hiring of Yates, it was the Whole Health Department, overseen by the chief nurse, that made the final call on the hire. He said the Whole Health Dept. was also the only department not under his supervision and that the department was also responsible for complaints on the doctor.
Like many others, including Capito, New believes more should be known about the events of two years ago.
“Despite what some like Dr. Harris have said that everything was done according to protocol, that’s not so,” said New. “There needs to be an investigation into where the breakdowns occurred, how he (Yates) was able to come on and kept on once some of the veterans started to come forward.”
Harris has retained his county chair position despite his selection as state leader. His election by the state executive committee was controversial aside from the VA issues. Supporters of former State Chair Conrad Lucas believe their candidate actually received more votes than Harris in the balloting. But meeting officials, largely identified as Harris voters, ruled Harris the winner by one vote.
This story will be updated as warranted.