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Family Of Marine Who Was Refused Care At The VA Hospital In Massachusetts to Receive Wrongful Death Settlement

A $350,000 wrongful death settlement has been reached between the federal government and the family of a US marine reserve corporal who was refused care at the Veterans Administration hospital in Leeds, Massachusetts. Marine Reserve Corporal Jeffrey Lucey hanged himself in June 2004.

According to his family, the 23-year-old soldier was drinking heavily, severely depressed, and having trouble sleeping after he returned from Iraq in 2004. He was treated at the Massachusetts VA hospital’s psychiatric ward.

Two days after Lucey was released from the medical facility, he tried to kill himself by crashing the family car. It was at this point that the VA hospital refused to readmit him. A nurse reportedly made this decision without having a psychiatrist evaluate Lucey. According to his parents’ wrongful death lawsuit, the VA wouldn’t treat Lucey for post-traumatic stress disorder because he needed to become sober first.

In the last few years, the US government has made changes to how VA facilities treat returning veterans. 100 adjustment counsels have joined 207 of the VA’s Vet Centers. 100 new medical center employees now work as advocates for those who have suffered serious injuries. The VA Office of the Inspector General has also said that sustained sobriety will no longer be a requirement for US veterans to receive inpatient treatment for PTSD.

Lucey’s father, Kevin, has accused the government of killing his son by sending him into war and then denying him the “basic health care” he needed upon his return. There have been several wrongful death lawsuits filed against the US government alleging negligence that led to veterans killing themselves.

By agreeing to settle, the Assistant US Attorney in charge of the case says the VA is not admitting it was responsible for Lucey’s suicide.

Family of Iraq vet gets settlement after his suicide, Stars and Stripes, January 16, 2009
VA Settles Suicide Lawsuit, Military.com, January 15, 2009

Related Web Resources:
US Department of Veterans Affairs

The Federal Tort Claims Act (PDF)