Friday, January 16, 2009

US government denies guilt but pays $350,000

The US government has agreed to pay $350,000 to settle a federal claim by a Belchertown family who blamed Northampton VA Medical Center for the suicide of their son, an Iraq war veteran who hanged himself after he allegedly was denied mental healthcare.
A lawyer from the office of US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan said in a letter filed yesterday at US District Court in Springfield that the June 2004 suicide of Jeffrey Lucey, a 23-year-old Marine, "while under VA care was a tragedy for the VA and the individual care providers."

The above is from Jonathan Saltzman's "Family settles with US in Marine suicide" (Boston Globe). Jeffrey Lucey's parents are Joyce and Kevin Lucey. The Lucey's have been noted here many times (most recently in Monday's snapshot) and Trina called this morning because she thought Fred Contrada's "U.S. to pay family of Belchertown Marine who committed suicide $350,000" (The Republican) explains some of what Jeffrey Lucey experienced in Iraq:

As the family tells the story, Jeffrey Lucey was eager to join the military after the World Trade Center bombings in 2001. He shipped out to Iraq as a truck driver but was sent into battle in the town of Nasiriyah in 2003.
At one point, Lucey came upon the body of an Iraqi boy who had been shot to death in the street. A tiny, blood-stained American flag was clutched in the dead boy's hand. Lucey took the flag and carried it with him for the rest of his life.
Lucey began drinking a lot after returning home later that year, his family said. At Christmas time he confessed to his sister that he had been ordered to shoot two captured Iraqi soldiers at point blank range. Lucey, who had kept the men's identification tags, threw them on the bed and shouted, "Your brother is a murderer!"
The U.S. Marine Corps said it has found no evidence that Lucey's story is true.
Kevin Lucey said records show his son told someone at the VA that he was contemplating suicide, but the Luceys were not informed of this.
On June 21, 2004, less than a month after he was released from the VA, Jeffrey Lucey asked his father if he could curl up in his lap. Kevin Lucey cradled his son that night. When he returned home from work the next day, he found Jeffrey hanging from a self-made noose in the basement. Lucey was buried with the flag he had taken from the Iraqi boy.
Kevin Lucey said news of the settlement stirred a lot of emotions within the family.
"It's like losing Jeff all over again," he said.

Kevin and Joyce Lucey have spoken about their son's mistreatment by the VA to Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! many times. This is Joyce Lucey from a July 31, 2007 broadcast:

Jeffrey went to Kuwait in the beginning of February of 2003, into Iraq with the initial invasion in March. He returned home to us in July of 2003. And at the beginning, we really saw -- we didn't notice any major difference, although his girlfriend said he was distant when they went away for the weekend to Cape Cod, and he told a friend that he had seen enough sand to last him a lifetime, so he really didn't want to go on the beach. We found out during the fall that he was vomiting on a daily basis. We encouraged him to go to the doctor on that. And they went more for a physical reason, rather than a psychological, and now, looking back, it might have been the PTSD starting. And then he progressed onto Christmas Eve, where he threw the dog tags at his sister and called himself a murderer. From there to nightmares, which I heard him yelling out, and to which he said he was fine, that he was just having a dream that he was caught in an alleyway and they were coming after him. And then Jeffrey went back to college. He had been in college since September, after his return, went back to college in January and was fine until March, when they have their college break. And at that point, he got very depressed, drinking, and couldn't go back to school, even though he didn't actually tell me that. But he would go and come home early and say class had ended early or the professor didn't show up. So I didn't really know he wasn't attending classes, but he was having panic attacks, and when he finally did say something, he said he just couldn't stay in class. And he was also having a startled response, if somebody would slam a door. So he went to our primary care physician at that point and was put on Prozac and Ativan to see if it could keep him in class. And it just continued on from there, the inability to sleep, the lack of appetite, the social seclusion.

And also from that broadcast, we'll note this section:

KEVIN LUCEY: Well, I think that the primary reason is that what happened to Jeff should never have happened. Jeff was so afraid to go to the VA, because he was afraid that the military would find out. And it's that stigma issue. And so, therefore, we called anonymously, and we described the symptoms, and they told us that that's classic PTSD and get him in as soon as possible. And what happened was, Jeff finally did agree to go in, but he delayed it until May 28th, on Friday. And when I was bringing Jeff to them, I really did think that we were bringing him to the arms of the angels, because they were going to save him. They were going to deal with Jeff's problems. And it took us about six hours to get him committed. They tried to talk him into going in voluntarily, but Jeff refused to. So Jeff was finally committed, and he tried to leave the building, but the nursing staff and the police had to go after him. But they brought him back in. He was there for about three-and-a-half days. He was discharged on June 1st. And what we discovered -- and this was about a year afterwards -- that there was a psychiatrist that saw him upon the admission, and then there was the psychiatrist who saw him at the discharge, but no psychiatrist saw him at all during those two times.

AMY GOODMAN: You mean, during the entire time he was committed, he was not seen by a psychiatrist, except for being admitted and for being released?


JOYCE LUCEY: And it was two different psychiatrists, so there really was no continuity in the care.

The Luceys are members of Military Families Speak Out and that organization has released the following (PDF format warning) statement:

Government Admits that Cpl. Jeffrey Lucey's Suicide Was A "Tragedy"
for Veterans Administration
SPRINGFIELD, MA -- The United States Government has agreed to pay $350,000 to the parents of a United States Marine who committed suicide in 2004 after returning home from combat duty in the Iraq war.
Within months after returning home from Iraq in June 2003, Cpl. Jeffrey Lucey began to show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder caused by his experience in the war. On June 22, 2004,
Jeffrey hung himself in the basement of his parents’ home, two weeks after the Northampton Veterans Medical Center in Leeds, Massachusetts, turned him away. Jeffrey, who had received an honorable discharge from the US Marine Corps, was 23 years old at the time of his death. In July 2007, his parents, Kevin and Joyce Lucey filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the United States in federal court in Springfield, Massachusetts -- the first such suit to be filed since the
beginning of the war in Iraq.
On January 6, 2009, the US Justice Department issued a letter to the Luceys' attorney, Cristobal Bonifaz, which admitted "that Jeffrey’s suicide while under VA [Veterans Administration] care was a tragedy for the VA and the individual care providers." The letter formally offered $350,000 to settle the case. Bonifaz today notified the federal court that his clients have accepted this offer.
"The US Government killed my son," said Kevin Lucey. "It sent him into an illegal and reckless war and then, when he returned home, it denied him the basic health care he needed. We hope that this case serves as a wake-up call to the nation that our government must be held accountable for the suffering it has caused thousands of US military families."
Joyce Lucey added "When Jeffrey went to Iraq, we didn't realize that the bullets and bombs there didn't present the only threat to our son's safety. Our own government's apathy and indifference are just as great a threat to our troops and veterans. Until the Veterans Administration takes the psychological wounds of war seriously, the epidemic of military suicides will continue to grow."
"Jeffrey Lucey carried to his death the American flag he found in the hands of a dead Iraqi child," said Bonifaz. "Jeffrey never recovered from the horrors he witnessed in Iraq. When his post-traumatic stress disorder signs became critical, he was turned away at the door of the US Veterans Administration. Jeffrey Lucey would have lived but for the illegal war in Iraq and the callous and irresponsible treatment handed to him by the US agency charged with providing him health care when he had returned home."
After their son's death in 2004, Kevin and Joyce Lucey joined Military Families Speak Out, a national organization of military families opposed to the war in Iraq. "Jeffrey's story is a story of too many military families in this country," said Joyce Lucey. "We will continue to speak out to demand that our government immediately end this war, bring our troops home now, and provide all the necessary medical care they deserve when they return."
"And to those military families who have similarly suffered because of the negligence of the US Veterans Administration," added Kevin Lucey, "we hope this case serves as an example that the government can and must be held accountable in a court of law."
Kevin and Joyce Lucey and Cristobal Bonifaz are available for interview.
Copies of the letter from the U.S. Justice Department outlining the settlement in this case are available by request from Military Families Speak Out.
Military Families Speak Out is an organization of 4,000 military families opposed to the war in Iraq, with loved ones who are serving or have served in the U.S. military since fall, 2002.

Public broadcasting notes. Starting with public radio, WBAI on Sunday and Monday:

Sunday, January 18, 11am-noon


Poet Hugh Seidman hosts this hour with fellow poets Harvey Shapiro,
Lawrence Joseph and D. Nurkse.

Monday, January 19, 2-3pm


Continuing WBAI's all-day annual Martin Luther King Day celebration
and fundraiser. Hosted by Janet Coleman and David Dozer.

Broadcasting at WBAI/NY 99.5 FM
Streaming live at WBAI
Archived at Cat Radio Cafe

NOW on PBS examines "the green energy dream" in the latest installment which begins broadcasting on many PBS stations tonight (check local listings for date and time in your area):

Will the green energy dream come to fruition? This week NOW explores obstacles to the promise of renewables--energy generated from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, and rain.

As America looks to dramatically increase its use of renewable energy, an inconvenient reality stands in the way: the need to upgrade the country's antiquated electricity grid. Part of that overhaul involves the construction of gigantic and expensive long-distance transmission lines to carry clean energy from remote sites to population centers.

NOW travels to California, which has the most ambitious clean energy plan in the nation. But the state's efforts face stiff opposition from property owners and conservationists who prefer renewable energy from "local sources," such as photovoltaic rooftop solar panels.

Complicating the matter are claims that the transmission lines are not actually carrying renewable energy at all, but represent a thinly-disguised strategy to stick to old energy practices.

The green energy dream: Why it may not happen.

And on broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday, no 60 Minutes:

60 Minutes is pre-empted Sunday, Jan. 18, by CBS Sports coverage of the American Football Conference Championship game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.

60 Minutes Update
Osama bin Laden
An audiotape of Osama bin Laden, his first since May 2008, appeared on an Islamic militant Web site Wednesday. Last October, the officer who led the Army’s Delta Force mission to kill bin Laden revealed to Scott Pelley what happened in the weeks following 9/11 in Tora Bora, Afghanistan. | Video
This Week In Review
01/12/92: Colin Powell
Seventeen years ago this week, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell spoke to Ed Bradley about growing up in the Bronx, being a career soldier, and breaking racial barriers. | Video
01/07/96: Yo-Yo Ma
Cello virtuoso Yo-Yo Ma told Morley Safer, 13 years ago this week, that it is his passion for music which keeps him motivated to perform. | Video
01/06/08: President Musharraf
One year ago this week, then President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, told Lara Logan that he had no responsibility for the assassination of his chief rival Benazir Bhutto. | Video
01/06/08: Roger Clemens
Just weeks after telling Mike Wallace he had never used illegal performance enhancing drugs, Roger Clemens repeated his denial under oath in a Congressional committee hearing last year. Now, reports indicate that prosecutors have convened a grand jury to determine whether Clemens committed perjury with his testimony. Watch Roger Clemens with Mike Wallace. | Video

The following community sites have updated since yesterday morning:
As for the racist, we covered his crap last night in this entry. And on last night's entry, thank you to Joy. ICCC was down last night and I thought it was down for a few minutes and planned to check again. I did a few times and then forgot and also forgot about updating the number for US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. That number is 4226 and I have fixed it. Thank you to Joy for catching my mistake and e-mailing.

Lawrence notes Mickey Z's "Obama Nation Upholds US Terror" (Information Clearing House) which is a brief article and one difficult to excerpt (he's going historical and you really can't pull from that without leaving people confused) so we'll note his closing, "The exalted Pope of Hope is merely shilling old Kool-Aid in shiny new recyclable bottles. Until we act, we remain accomplices to his global and domestic crimes." Lastly, Keesha notes a video at World Can't Wait where Cynthia McKinney addresses the assault on Gaza. (Keesha sent the link as follows. She says she's not sure that works but that's how they have links set up. If it doesn't work, e-mail and we'll note it tomomrrow morning.)

The e-mail address for this site is