According to the Times-Tribune (1/17/13), Stanley Laskowski III was honorably discharged in February 2007. Laskowski was later diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, but according to his lawsuit, was prescribed the wrong medication. Furthermore, Laskowski alleged it took months before he saw a physician when he first went for treatment and his medications were changed over the telephone. He was also not given psychotherapy for his post traumatic stress disorder, reportedly a violation of VA protocol. Ultimately, Laskowski broke into a pharmacy to steal prescription medications that he thought would help overcome his PTSD.
Although the judge awarded Laskowski $3.7 million, he also said the issues were case-specific and should not been seen as problems within the VA overall. The VA argued that Laskowski downplayed how severe his symptoms were when he spoke with medical staff.
But a 2012 report in USA Today (4/23/12) argues that approximately one-third of VA patients must wait much more than two weeks for treatment after being evaluated for mental health problems. In fact, up to 94,000 patients in 2011 waited an average of approximately six weeks before their treatment started, putting them at risk of serious health problems and deteriorating mental health.
Among complaints made by veterans who attempt to access VA benefits are allegations of lost records, inadequate resources and improperly filed paperwork. The veterans and their advocates argue that filing for benefits can be unnecessarily complicated, forcing them to wait months and, in some cases, years for a resolution to their claims.
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In July 2010, the VA changed its criteria for PTSD claims, requiring less evidence of stressors if the VA doctor confirms that the veteran’s experiences support a diagnosis of PTSD. That combined with an increase in the number of troops leaving active duty and entering the VA system may have created more of a backlog and prevented some veterans from having timely access to treatment and medical help.
Laskowski’s lawsuit is not the first filed against the VA related to post traumatic stress and lack of care. The Times Leader (11/20/11) reports that in 2009, the VA settled a lawsuit with the family of Jeffrey Lucey. Lucey committed suicide after his mental health problems were not treated. The VA agreed to pay $350,000 to settle the lawsuit.