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VA Settles Veteran PTSD Suicide Lawsuit for $1.7 Million

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Systemic Dysfunction at Indiana VA Healthcare Facility

South Bend, INIn May, the Department of Veterans Affairs agreed to settle a medical malpractice lawsuit brought by the family of Jason Moon for $1.7 million. Moon had served two tours as a medical evacuation crew member during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He shot himself to death in 2022 while at home with his wife and children. The medical malpractice lawsuit filed by his widow alleges that Moon had never been properly diagnosed or treated for severe post-traumatic stress syndrome at the South Bend Vet Center.

A 2020 Inspector General’s report suggested that the hospitals and clinics in the VA’s sprawling healthcare network have long fallen short when it comes to treating people with mental illness. Jason Moon appears to have been one of the victims of this dysfunction.

Downward spiral

Moon left the Army in 2017 and, at the time of his death, was a member of the Army National Guard, training to become a Black Hawk helicopter pilot. According to his widow, he suffered from nightmares and anxiety, which led to alcohol abuse. His behavior became increasingly violent and unpredictable. Moon, himself, contacted the Vet Center for behavioral health care in 2020.

According to the Complaint, the Center placed Moon in the care of an unlicensed intern, who was not properly supervised and only provided appointments by phone. The intern failed to:
  • properly assess him;
  • perform required suicide and lethality reviews; and
  • collect records from an emergency room visit and admittance to an in-patient behavioral health facility, where Moon told staff that he felt hopeless and was thinking about suicide.
After the intern left the veterans center, a follow-up counselor did not return Moon’s messages and allegedly falsified records after his death to hide her own negligence. A VA inspector general report released in 2023 found the director of that center had informed his staff that categorizing a veteran’s risk of suicide as “intermediate” or “high” would negatively subject the center to increased scrutiny from senior VA leaders. They rated Moon’s suicide risk as low, even though he reported stressors that suggested a much greater danger, according to the report.

The serious dysfunction at the South Bend Vet Center prompted the family to take legal action under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which led to the $1.7 million settlement. The family’s attorney emphasized the need for systemic changes to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

Federal Tort Claims Act

Veterans who have suffered a personal injury or other harm caused by a federal agency or employee may be able to pursue a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) if they can show that:
  • An employee or agent of the federal government (including VA doctors and other professionals) caused the harm;
  • The employee’s acts or omissions were either negligent or intentionally wrongful. Medical malpractice is generally regarded as a form of negligence;
  • The employee was acting within the scope of his or her duties at the time of the harm; and
  • The veteran was hurt as a direct result of the negligence of the employee.
The process of filing a claim under the FTCA can seem complicated because it must begin with an administrative complaint, rather than a lawsuit. This administrative claim must generally be filed within two years of the date the harm occurred. A delayed claim may be time-barred.

The agency then has six months to consider a claim and respond. If the federal agency accepts responsibility, it may offer to settle the claim. If a veteran is not happy with the settlement offer, he or she may file a claim in federal court. This process will require the help of an experienced attorney.

Persistent and widespread mental healthcare failures at VA facilities

A ProPublica report following the Inspector General’s review concluded that problems persist. These issues include increased demand for behavioral health treatment, inadequate mental health staffing, outdated policies and the inability to enforce high standards across a large, decentralized health care network.

Issues with mental health care surfaced in half of the routine inspections. Employees botched screenings meant to assess veterans’ risk of suicide or violence; sometimes they did not perform the screenings at all. They missed mandatory mental health training programs and failed to follow up with patients as required by VA protocol. In the most extreme cases, facilities lost track of veterans or failed to prevent suicides under their own roofs.

The VA serves a vital role in caring for our nation's veterans. However, medical malpractice can happen, as it did to Jason Moon. The FTCA allows veterans or their families to seek compensation for injuries caused by negligent VA medical professionals, as the system struggles to improve


Veterans Malpractice Legal Help

If you or a loved one have suffered losses in this case, please click the link below and your complaint will be sent to a malpractice lawyer who may evaluate your Veterans Malpractice claim at no cost or obligation.


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