Court awards Valley veteran $2.5 Million in medical malpractice suit

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Steve Cooper hugged veterans after the ruling. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Steve Cooper hugged veterans after the ruling. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Steve with his wife Rima. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Steve with his wife Rima. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Steve talked to reporters after the ruling. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Steve talked to reporters after the ruling. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV) -

U.S. Army vet Steve Cooper was awarded $2.5 million in his medical malpractice lawsuit against the Phoenix VA on Monday.

U.S. Magistrate Michelle Burns ruled Monday that a nurse practitioner who found abnormalities in Cooper's prostate in 2011 should have ordered more testing.

"While I am appreciative of the verdict and the judge and what she did, I'm still heartbroken because veterans are still dying," said Cooper. "The money is irrelevant. The fact that vets are still dying - that's the tragedy." 

Cooper learned 11 months after the initial exam that he had stage 4 prostate cancer, and was given only a short time to live.

Government lawyers say the nurse practitioner didn't turn up indications of cancer during the initial examination.

[RELATED: Dying Valley vet who filed lawsuit against Phoenix VA testifies]

He had asked for $50 million but says the case was never about money.

"My case is done. My life, I will die soon," said Cooper. "What really matters is why we did this. These vets who have served our country deserve much better."

[RELATED: $50 million civil trial accuses Phoenix VA of medical malpractice]

Cooper is hoping this verdict sends a message to the VA that they need to do a better job taking care of vets.

"Making them wait months for treatment, wait months for scans, it's not right," said Cooper's wife, Rima. "It's not how we should be treating our vets. We need a better system."

It is first court case involving a sick or injured vet stemming from the VA scandal.

[Special section: VA hospital troubles]

Phoenix was the epicenter of a scandal that revealed veterans on secret waiting lists who faced scheduling delays.

But there were no references to the scandal in Burns' decision or in trial arguments by Cooper's attorneys.

Cooper is hoping his case changes the way vets are treated by the VA.

A number of veterans were in the courtroom to support Cooper.

"It's not just a win for Mr. Cooper, it's a win for vets all over the U.S. because it is showing that they are going to be held accountable." said fellow veteran Edward Prest.

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