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Saturday, April 5, 2014

VA pays out $200 million for nearly 1,000 veterans’ wrongful deaths

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An Iraq War veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder and a history of drug dependency is found dead on the floor of his room at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in West Los Angeles after doctors give him a 30-day supply of the anti-anxiety medication alprazolam and a 15-day supply of methadone.

In Shreveport, La., a veteran overdoses on morphine while housed in a locked VA psychiatric unit. In a Minnesota VA psych ward, a veteran shoots himself in the head. In Portland, Ore., a delusional veteran jumps off the roof of the VA hospital.

These are some of the deaths that resulted in more than $200 million in wrongful death payments by the Department of Veterans Affairs in the decade after 9/11, according to VA data obtained by The Center for Investigative Reporting.

In that time, CIR found the agency made wrongful death payments to nearly 1,000 grieving families, ranging from decorated Iraq War veterans who shot or hanged themselves after being turned away from mental health treatment, to Vietnam veterans whose cancerous tumors were identified but allowed to grow, to missed diagnoses, botched surgeries and fatal neglect of elderly veterans.

“It wasn’t about the money, I just thought somebody should be held accountable,” said 86-year-old Doris Street, who received a $135,000 settlement in 2010 as compensation for the 2008 death of her brother, Carl Glaze. The median payment in VA wrongful death cases was $150,000.

Glaze, a...

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