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$5 Million Civil Trial Against the VA Could Finish Today

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Citizensvoice.com – A civil trial could wrap up today pitting a Marine Corps veteran from Carbondale against the Department of Veterans Affairs in a $5 million medical malpractice claim over the treatment of his post-traumatic stress disorder.

Attorneys from both sides are expected to present their closing arguments today in the nonjury bench trial before Senior U.S. District Judge James M. Munley in federal court.

Stanley Laskowski III, 34, a Marine sergeant and Iraq War veteran, sued the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Plains Twp. in 2010.

The agency’s clinicians did not properly treat his PTSD, prescribed him the wrong medications and did not immediately offer him psychotherapy, according to the suit and court testimony.

More about the case:
Stanley Laskowski III and his wife, Marisol, sued the VA in federal court in 2010, claiming the agency’s Plains Township medical center prescribed him in 2007 an assortment of medications not suitable for effectively treating PTSD.

“This is not a complicated medical case,” said Laskowski’s attorney, Daniel T. Brier. “The VA knows PTSD the way McDonald’s knows hamburgers.”

Brier and the government’s attorney, G. Michael Thiel, presented starkly different accounts of the VA’s handling of Laskowski’s condition and the information – or lack thereof – Laskowski told clinicians about his recurring nightmares, fits of anger, insomnia, flashbacks and paranoia years after he returned from combat in Iraq in 2003 when he was a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Laskowski, 34, left the courtroom when Brier asked his expert medical witness to describe the bloody scenes in Iraq that spawned his client’s condition.

Dr. Harvey Dondershine, a psychiatrist with Stanford University, said Laskowski’s psychological tailspin began when he stormed an apartment building in Iraq.

When Laskowski came up to the apartment door and heard the mumbling of human voices within, he shot at the door’s lock to be able to able get inside. When the door cracked open, he saw a child dying on the floor, and believed he was responsible, Dondershine testified.

Amid other moments of bloody violence in Iraq, Laskowski came across the remains of a 6-month-old baby among the fragments of a exploded home, Dondershine said.

Dondershine was the only witness called Monday in the bench trial before Senior U.S. District Judge James M. Munley.

During Brier’s opening arguments, he blamed the VA for not once in four months letting Laskowski see a trained physician or psychiatrist for PTSD therapy, despite a Plains Township VA initial examination in April 2007 showing he should be evaluated for the condition. After the initial examination, VA nurses and physician assistants prescribed him drugs, or altered his prescriptions, over the phone when he complained of his worsening condition, Brier said.

“It was telephone medicine,” Brier said.

He was referred to psychotherapy, but never received the treatment, Brier said.

The “flashpoint” of his psychosis came in August 2007, when he was arrested and jailed for breaking into an Olyphant pharmacy to steal prescription pills, Brier said.

During his opening arguments, Thiel said Laskowski had a history of substance abuse before joining the military that continued after he received more thorough PTSD treatment and different medications following the burglary.

“It wouldn’t have made any difference,” Thiel said, countering Brier’s argument that Laskowski would not have reached his “flash point” if he was treated properly.

Laskowski also did not fully disclose the alleged severity of his PTSD to VA clinicians, despite making claims in his lawsuit that he suffered from constant nightmares and severe paranoia, Thiel said.

Thiel further argued the VA prescribed him the correct medication under the VA’s guidelines, which helped him sleep better, and eliminated his nightmares, flashbacks and other PTSD-related symptoms.

Source: Citizensvoice.com (1), (2), September 18 and 11, 2012, by Steve McConnell

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