Family Suing VA Over Veteran’s Suicide

Three years ago 26-year-old Lucas Senescall took his own life. A tragic situation in and of itself, his suicide was 1 of 21 among veterans in the Spokane, Washington Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) service between July 2007 and July 2008. According to the VA, 14 of those 21 veterans had direct contact with the Spokane VA Medical Center, a suicide trend seen nationwide.

Senescall’s father and brother have sued the federal government in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. They are seeking $1.35 million in damages stemming from the “pain and suffering  they endured as a result of Senescall’s death,” which was caused by the alleged negligence of VA employees.

Senescall’s record of mental health issues are what brought him and his father to the Spokane VA Medical Center’s behavioral health unit. Senescall’s father observed his son’s communications with VA employees. Following that visit, Senescall returned home and hung himself, which is how his brother found his body.

According to the lawsuit, Senescall had attempted suicide previously. On that last visit to the VA medical center he was “despondent,” and stated to a VA nurse he did not want to exist anymore. The lawsuit claims instead of a psychiatrist offering Senescall “treatment, counseling or medication,” the psychiatrist “chastised” Senescall because he missed 3 “mental health appointments” over the previous 3 years.

Despite that treatment, Senescall called the VA medical center later that day and told the VA staff he was not “doing well.” According to Senescall’s family, the VA should have contacted Senescall’s father or the police and notified them Senescall should have been on suicide watch.

A 2009 VA Office of Medial Inspector report indicated Senescall should have given admission to the hospital as well as be examined away from his father. As a result of an “overhaul in VA suicide prevention tactics,” suicides between July 2008 and July 2009 dropped to 9, with 3 of those having contact with the medical center. By no means are these numbers acceptable, but they show a step in the right direction.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, a South Florida disability attorney from Veterans Help Group is ready to help. To learn if you are entitled to certain programs and benefits contact our veterans disability rights firm today 1-855-855-8992.