Settlement reached in Beckley VA sexual assault case

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BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — Earlier this year, Jonathan Yates was sentenced to 25 years in prison for dozens of counts of sexual assault.

During an eleven-month span, Yates sexually assaulted at least 62 veterans during examinations.

Local attorney Stephen New represented a majority of the veterans who sued the federal government, having to follow the federal tort claims act.

“Suing the United States government, as you might imagine, is not like suing the person who hits you in the car down on the street,” said New, who represented 56 of the veterans.

Because of a cap placed on damages from medical malpractice in West Virginia, each victim received $180,000 from the federal government, which totals at around $10.5 million. While New wanted more for the victims, he said they achieved the main goal of taking away Yates’ medical license and putting him in prison.

“Now we have gotten the financial compensation, I wish it could have been more for my clients,” said New. “Because… all of the cases really deserved more than this,”

New said this is not the end of the process. He now wants the federal government to investigate the circumstances surrounding Yates’ hiring. According to New, there were similar allegations surrounding the former doctor when he worked for the Bluefield Medical center.

“Why he was allowed to practice medicine at the Beckley VA medical center seven months after the first victim came up to complain?” New asked.

Being a veteran himself, New said seeing dozens of men and women who served this country be abused was heart breaking.

“It is very emotional, these are tough guys, a lot of these guys are combat veterans and have seen some very tough things,” said New.

But if there is any silver lining, he said he could not be more proud to get justice for the victims.

“Representing these 56 veterans has been the absolute highlight of my legal career,” said New. “I am so proud to have been their advocate and their voice in all of this,”

Representatives from the Beckley VA Medical Center released a statement regarding Yates.

“VA is fully committed to ending sexual harassment, sexual assault and domestic violence.
This physician’s behavior was intolerable. The Beckley VA Medical Center will not stand such behavior and is committed to keeping Veterans, their families, and caregivers safe,” said representatives from the center.

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