APNewsBreak: Suit claims VA negligent in suicide — (KnoxNews)

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Posted on Wednesday, 10.12.11



Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The widow of an Iraq war veteran from Tennessee claims in a lawsuit that the Veterans Affairs was negligent in failing to diagnose and treat his post-traumatic stress disorder before he committed suicide in 2008.

The suit filed Tuesday in federal court in Greeneville says staff at the VA hospital in Mountain Home did not adequately treat Scott Walter Eiswert, of Greeneville, before his suicide at the age of 31. Eiswert, who served with the Tennessee National Guard, deployed to Iraq in 2004 and 2005.

Eiswert started seeking help for his symptoms after he was honorably discharged in 2005 at private mental health facility in Greeneville. His symptoms, according to his medical records detailed in the lawsuit, included insomnia, irritability, stress and depression. A counselor at Nolachuckey-Holston Center wrote a letter to the VA saying he had been diagnosed with PTSD.

He applied to the VA for service-connected PTSD benefits and noted that during his Iraq deployment he worked on various route clearance missions and saw civilian fatalities including body parts. He also told the VA that some of his fellow soldiers had been killed in a bombing while he had been talking to them on a radio.

His benefit claims were denied a total of three times by the VA prior to his death, according to the lawsuit. The hospital gave him medications for depression and insomnia, but he did not tolerate them well, according to the lawsuit.

In 2007, a VA doctor determined he was not at risk for suicide, although he had referred to past thoughts of suicide. Eiswert told the doctor that he would not do that to his children.

He was referred to a veterans center in Johnson City, where they reported he had continuing problems with depression, anxiety and anger.

Early in 2008, the VA again denied his claim for a service-connected PTSD and stated that there was no “objective evidence” to verify his stressors. In March he missed a scheduled appointment at the VA facility in Mountain Home. He later called to tell them he didn’t want any more medication and he didn’t want any more appointments, the lawsuit said. He shot himself less than two months later at his home.

After his death, the VA reversed its decision and found that Eiswert was entitled to a service-connected disability for PTSD. Two psychiatric experts analyzed Eiswert’s medical records and concluded that the VA was derelict in their duty to diagnose him with PTSD and gave him substandard medical care.

A VA center representative in Mountain Home did not immediately return a message left Wednesday morning seeking comment.

The lawsuit was filed by his wife Tracy Lynn Reece Eiswert and her three children, who now live in Florida.