PTSD and the VA’s Failures (Claims 99-127, 154-171)
From Judge Bryan’s Order:
“At that time, the military did not have many programs for identifying and treating servicemen who had experienced trauma. Thuesen did not receive any special debriefing or counseling to deal with the traumas he had witnessed. Instead, he returned from deployment to a civilian society that could not comprehend what he had experienced.”
“Thuesen did not receive proper diagnosis and treatment of his PTSD from the VA. On at least three occasions from 2006 to 2008, he reported symptoms of PTSD to the VA in his post-deployment health assessments. Yet he was never given a diagnosis of PTSD nor was his file flagged for possible follow-up or intervention.”
2006: Thuesen reported several PTSD-related symptoms, including depression and numbness, in a VA health assessment. He indicated they are making daily life “very difficult.”
March 2007: Thuesen again reported PTSD symptoms in another assessment, including depression, hyper-vigilance, and angry outbursts. But VA staff only identified problems of “anger/irritability” and “some mild depressed mood.”
July 2007: A VA psychiatrist reviewed this prior assessment but only recommended “counseling at the Vet Center or through church to improve quality of life and deal with psychosocial stressors.”
July 2008: Thuesen endorsed all 4 questions relating to PTSD symptoms in yet another assessment.
But the VA nurse practitioner didn’t mention PTSD at all in her treatment options. Instead, she wrote that Thuesen had “no mental health condition requiring further intervention” and advised him to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline “in case of crisis.”
45 days later: “Thuesen called the VA suicide hotline, threatening to kill himself.” At the VA Medical Center in Houston, a physician noted his “exposure to trauma, nightmares, and an increased startle response.” Despite these PTSD symptoms, “Thuesen was not diagnosed or treated for PTSD during this short hospital stay.”
“Just before his discharge, Thuesen underwent another abbreviated mental health psychological assessment, during which he discussed his traumatic war experiences and his struggles with anger and alcohol. From these statements, it should have been clear that Thuesen was suffering from PTSD at the time of his hospitalization.”
Fall ‘08: During late 2008 and early 2009, Thuesen continued to suffer from PTSD.
March ’09: He reported ongoing feelings of hypervigilance, panic, anger, crowd avoidance, and intrusive thoughts and nightmares about his Iraq experiences.
Up until 2 days before the crime, Thuesen saw a VA social worker who
“wasn’t qualified to diagnose medical disorders or prescribe treatment. As a result, she only provided him with supportive counseling sessions once a month.”
This social worker
“never received any medical records from the VA system, including past diagnoses, treatment history, or mental health assessments.”
“Ultimately, after decreasing the frequency of her counseling sessions, [the social worker] saw Thuesen just 2 days before the crime occurred. During that session, Thuesen again noted issues of anger, panic, hyper-vigilance, and avoidance. In response, she provided supportive counsel, offering ‘symptom management techniques’ so that Thuesen could recognize and deal with these symptoms on his own.”