War Widow Blames VA Neglect for her Husband’s Suicide
Posted by defensebaseactcomp on October 18, 2011
Sadly this reads like so many Defense Base Act PTSD Suicides, Neglect and unreasonable demands….
GREENEVILLE, Tenn. Courthouse News October 18, 2011
Neglect and unreasonable demands from the Veterans Administration caused another Iraq war veteran to kill himself,
his widow claims in Federal Court. She says that despite a doctor’s “clear diagnosis” of post-traumatic stress disorder, from roadside bombs, including one that killed 93 people, the VA refused to admit he suffered from PTSD, with excuses such as “the diagnosis ‘does not specify which Diagnostic and Statistical Manual was used'”; and that he “‘failed to provide dates of the incidents or names of any casualties.'”
Tracy Eiswert says her husband Scott suffered substandard care from the VA hospital in Mountain Home, Tenn., before he killed himself in 2008. He was 31. She survives, with their two young children.
It’s the latest in a string of lawsuits from families of veterans nationwide, who say the VA was less than helpful after veterans returned from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The VA in July 2010 relaxed requirements for veterans seeking service-connected PTSD benefits, but the agency still faces criticism for its mental health services.
The 9th Circuit ruled this year in a California class action that the “VA’s failure to provide adequate procedures for veterans facing prejudicial delays in the delivery of mental health care violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment,” according to Tracy Eiswert’s complaint.
Scott Eiswert joined the National Guard in 2001 and served in Iraq in 2004 and 2005.
Tracy Eiswert says her husband first sought help for his symptoms after he was honorably discharged in November 2005.
She says Scott saw a professional counselor at a private mental health facility in Greeneville for almost 4 months. Scott’s symptoms included depression, acute insomnia, extreme stress and irritability, according to medical records described in the complaint.
His counselor recommended individual psychotherapy and reported to Scott’s physician that he “certainly appears to meet the criteria for PTSD,” the complaint states.
According to the medical records, in May 2006, Scott’s counselor wrote a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs, stating: “After meeting with Mr. Eiswert for several appointments, we have established a diagnosis of PTSD, per the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual Criteria.”
The widow says her husband applied to the VA for service-connected PTSD benefits based on the counselor’s diagnosis.
The complaint states:
“In the application Scott describes a number of incidents in Iraq as follows:
“Various Route Clearances – Roadside Bombs, Raids
“Convoy Escorts, all the Outside Wire Dangers and Stresses.
“Close Calls on Roadside Bombs
“Car Bombs and the Destruction they Cause, Including Civilian Fatalities (Body Parts)
“‘I was on a Raid with Fellow Soldiers when they got Blown-Up by a Massive Roadside Bomb. (93 Dead, 1 Crippled)” [Punctuation as in complaint.]
But the VA denied his claims three times before he killed himself, his widow says.
In its September 2006 denial, the VA stated that Scott’s counselor “does not specify which Diagnostic and Statistical Manual was used.’ The denial analysis also states that even though Scott provided ‘sufficient details concerning a stressor …’ it ‘failed to provide dates of the incidents or names of any casualties.'” (Ellipsis in complaint).
Tracy Eiswert says the VA doctor who assessed Scott did not have access to the records of Scott’s private counselor and “relied entirely on Scott’s narrative to make his assessment.” She says the VA doctor “concluded that ‘veteran has current diagnosis of depression, NOS. He does describe symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, however not enough to meet criteria.'”
(NOS apparently indicates “not otherwise specified.”)
The VA denied Scott’s claim a second time in November 2006, after receiving additional medical records from the Tennessee National Guard.
Tracy Eiswert says VA doctors gave Scott medications for depression and insomnia, but he did not tolerate them well.
By early 2007, Scott reported increased marital and family problems, increased irritability, nightmares, night sweats and difficulty sleeping, according to medical records in the complaint