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Court awards damages after finding VA liable in vet’s suicide

Regular readers of our San Antonio legal blog know that we frequently focus on our nation’s veterans and the medical care that they receive. You might have heard of a case in which a federal judge early this year found the Veterans Health Administration liable for the tragic suicide of an Iraq war veteran.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson recently awarded more than $480,000 to the vet’s two children and his father. The family charged the VA with negligence in the Marine veteran's care and said the agency directly contributed to the death of 28-year-old Cpl. William Draughon.

The judge agreed and ordered the VA to pay noneconomic damages for pain, suffering and loss of companionship of $125,000 each to the two children, as well as $75,000 to Draughon’s father. The judge also divided $154,608 in economic damages between the three (approximately $51,500 for each recipient).

According to a news report, Draughon was a squad leader in Iraq in 2004. He was later honorably discharged from the Marine Corps.

After he returned home, the vet was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He struggled with alcohol abuse and was more than once hospitalized at the Kansas City VA. His medical record indicates that he was flagged as a high risk for suicide.

Though no suicide risk assessment was performed, a suicide prevention coordinator removed the high-risk flag from his records just 90 days later.

After an argument with his girlfriend on St. Patrick’s Day of 2010, the veteran shot and killed himself in front of her and his brother.

Let’s hope that the favorable resolution of the lawsuit helps the family continue to heal and to honor its lost loved one.

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