Sunday, February 24, 2008

Minnesota Marine's case is part of lawsuit against VA

The suicide of Jonathan Schulze is cited in the
class-action suit filed by two national veterans groups.

By KEVIN GILES, Star Tribune
Last update: February 22, 2008 - 9:23 PM
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Jonathan Schulze

A class-action lawsuit filed by two national veterans organizations
accusing the U.S. Veterans Administration of neglecting psychological
fallout from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars cites the suicide of
Minnesota Marine veteran Jonathan Schulze.

Schulze is one of several deceased veterans named in the suit, which
a judge last month allowed to proceed and is headed for a hearing in
U.S. District Court in San Francisco in March. Schulze, 25,
committed suicide in January 2007 in New Prague, Minn., five
days after he allegedly was turned away from the VA hospital
in St. Cloud when seeking psychiatric help.

He had fought in Iraq. Medical records showed that he
suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

His father, Jim Schulze of the Stewart, Minn., area, said Friday that
attorneys for Veterans for Common Sense and a second group,
Veterans United for Truth, asked his wife, Marianne, to file a
declaration in support of the case. Marianne Schulze, Jonathan's
stepmother, reviewed her first-person observations of Jonathan's
encounters with the VA, his psychological struggles and his death.

"For some reason, he was denied the emergency care that might
have saved his life," she wrote in the four-page declaration.

VA officials last year denied that Schulze was turned away from
the St. Cloud hospital. An independent investigation by the VA's
Office of the Inspector General said that family allegations were
inconclusive because the hospital had no record of the exchange.

Attempts to contact U.S. Department of Justice attorneys defending
the VA against the class-action suit were unsuccessful. However,
court records show that the VA has argued that it already has
started several new programs to address suicide prevention and that
the suit should be dismissed because the court and veterans groups
shouldn't be intervening in VA policies.

The class-action suit, filed in July, is the first of its kind and
represents from 600,000 to 1.6 million Iraq and Afghanistan war
veterans who have been or will be subject to delays, confusion and
corruption at VA hospitals, said Gordon Erspamer, lead attorney for
Morrison and Foerster, the California firm representing the veterans.
"We're dealing with an agency that's unfortunately in the Dark Ages,"
said Erspamer, a Minnesota native and a graduate of Hamline
University Law School.

Erspamer and attorney Heather Moser said a court order precluded
them from identifying individual family members to protect them
from retribution from the VA.

But Jim Schulze, an Army veteran, said he's not intimidated by
going public. "What are they going to do, send me to Vietnam? Hell,
I've been there three times already," he said. " They didn't take
care of my needs, and they didn't take care of Jon's needs."

Paul Sullivan, a spokesman for Veterans for Common Sense, said
studies show more than 5,000 veteran suicides a year and a tidal
wave of returning war veterans needing mental health treatment.
"What we're trying to do is stop the VA from turning away
suicidal veterans," he said. "We think the situation has reached
a crisis stage."

The class-action suit asks the court to force the VA to conform to
federal laws and the U.S. Constitution by dealing with veterans needs
in a timely and comprehensive manner.

"To my mind we're dealing with a really serious harm," Moser said.
"The Schulzes are certainly not alone in having lost their son and
trying to get the VA to do something."

Kevin Giles • 651-298-1554

The VA has set up a 24-hour suicide hotline round-the-clock
access to mental health professionals.
The number is 1-800-273-TALK.
To learn more about PTSD--
visit the National Center for PTSD website.

Flashback, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide,
and the Lessions of WAR by Penny Coleman

I Can Still Hear Thier Cries, Even In My Sleep
...A Journey Into PTSD By E. Everett McFall
Both Books are Available on

1 comment:

james pandreson said...

The author has also provided an excellent Veterans Resource Guide and Directory as the last part of his book. While this book may not be for everybody, it is definitely a must-read for individuals that may or have been affected through a war, PTSD or other disability directly attributable to participation in the military service.
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