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Friday, July 27, 2007

Family Sues VA for Iraq Veteran Son's 2004 Suicide

From the Springfield Republican:

The parents of a former Marine who hanged himself in his Belchertown home after returning from the Iraq war sued Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Nicholson yesterday, contending negligence at the Northampton VA Medical Center led to their son's death.

Kevin and Joyce Lucey, in a 27-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court, allege that the refusal by medical center personnel to admit their emotionally troubled son, 23-year-old Jeffrey M. Lucey, on June 5, 2004, caused his suicide less than three weeks later.

Kevin Lucey said yesterday afternoon that the couple was reluctant to bring the lawsuit, which also names the United States as a defendant, but he said the medical treatment of the country's veterans needs an overhaul. "At this point, we want to make sure nobody else has to follow our path," he said.

"He (Kevin Lucey) wants to feel that his son died for something," said Conway lawyer Cristobal Bonifaz, who represents the couple.

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Kevin Lucey was told by medical center personnel that he needed to bring his son to the Northampton facility, as it appeared he was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, according to the complaint. Jeffrey Lucey was involuntarily committed to the medical center on May 28, 2004, and released four days later. "They never assessed him for PTSD," his father said. "They said they wouldn't assess him due to the fact that he would have to get his drinking under control."

When family members brought Lucey back to the medical center on June 5, 2004, according to the suit, personnel refused to have him evaluated for possible admission even though his sister, Debra, "expressed her concern ... that, unless something was done, she feared her brother would not be alive by July of 2004." Seventeen days later Kevin Lucey found his son hanging from a beam in the cellar of the family home. He had used a hose to hang himself.

The suit states that a report into Lucey's death issued by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs concluded that a psychiatrist at the medical center should have been consulted before Lucey was denied treatment on June 5, 2004.

The lawsuit follows the announcement last week by Nicholson what he would resign effective Oct. 1 and the filing of a suit by the Veterans for Common Sense on Monday in federal court in San Francisco. The suit, filed against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, alleges the agency is unlawfully denying veterans disability pay and treatment.

Kevin Lucey on his son's death:

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