Last Updated: November 11. 2009 9:57AM
Family settles vet's VA lawsuit
Government will pay $218,500 in fatal drug overdose case
Detroit News staff and wire reports
Detroit — The federal government has agreed to pay $218,500 to settle a lawsuit over the fatal drug overdose of a young Michigan veteran who served as a U.S. Marine in Iraq.
Randen Harvey died of an overdose in 2006 at his father's home in Farmington Hills. His family sued the Department of Veterans Affairs, accusing it of failing to keep him in a hospital or commit him to a mental health facility.
The settlement was reached just a few days before trial in federal court in Detroit. "The experience in Iraq was horrific for this young fellow," Thomas Campbell, a lawyer for Harvey's estate, said Tuesday.
Harvey, 24, was honorably discharged as a lance corporal in November 2005. Five months later, according to the lawsuit, he attempted suicide and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
In June 2006, Harvey was found on the roof of the VA Medical Center in Ann Arbor. The lawsuit says he was discharged from a hospital program because of alcohol use and told to wait for substance-abuse treatment. He died three days later.
"Given the costs of trial and the uncertainties of trial, the government thought this was a reasonable resolution," Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Croley said of the settlement.
The government claimed Harvey's overdose was an accident, not suicide. Harvey served two tours of duty in Iraq.
His mother, Jackie Green of Brooklyn, told The Detroit News Harvey's behavior changed soon after returning home. Months later, he began sleeping on the porch with a handmade machete. And in six weeks he twice was cited for drunken driving.
On March 31, 2006, when Harvey was first seen by the Ann Arbor VA's urgent care facility, he said he could sleep only four hours a night. He admitted that he'd been cutting his arms, but denied he was suicidal. Harvey was prescribed Xanax and Wellbutrin, both antidepressants.
On April 16, 2006, he swallowed what was left of the prescriptions and was hospitalized in Detroit. But he told relatives it was "just a panic attack."
"When you lose someone, there's no sum of money that's going to make it OK," Green said late Tuesday, adding she hoped a settlement "would change the course of things to come for soldiers coming home."
"I don't want it to happen again," she said.