A gunman suspected of killing six family members earlier this week was previously denied benefits for 17 medical conditions, including severe brain trauma, by the VA program, according to the Washington Times.
After a brutal attack leaving his ex-wife and some of her family members dead, 35-year-old former Marine Bradley Stone committed suicide. His body was discovered on Tuesday in Pennsylvania. The dispute originally arose over a child custody battle. On December 5, Stone attempted to file with the court, asking for emergency custody over his two daughters. He was immediately denied.
Investigators suspect a link between the two events. After conflicting reports as to the nature of his suicide, coroner Dr. Walter Hoffman said that he’ll have to wait for toxicology reports to be certain.
Why were Smith’s claims for benefits denied? Apparently Stone’s claims under 17 different medical conditions were denied based on guidelines set out by a program called “surge,” which former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki brought into play in 2013 to clear the ever-increasing backlog of veterans waiting in line for service.
Surge prioritizes eliminating “the backlog with continued emphasis on high-priority claims for homeless Veterans and those claiming financial hardship, the terminally ill, former prisoners of war, Medal of Honor recipients, and veterans filing fully developed claims.”
As a result, surge allowed employees to work overtime to finish the job. But by the time the program was instituted, it was too late. The backlog caused such a backlash that Shinseki was forced to resign, leaving a scandal-battered VA in need of new leadership. Stone claimed the benefits on October 13, stating that he was suffering from severe pain in his back and extremities, partly owing to a traumatic brain injury.
The decision about his entitlement to benefits took months and months. Finally, in March the VA Philadelphia office denied his claims, saying that Stone’s injuries were not service-related.
As recently as December 8, Stone met with a VA psychiatrist, but the psychiatrist didn’t note any concerns that would help indicate a homicidal attack was coming. However, Stone already had a 100 percent disability rating for post-traumatic stress disorder. The last contact Stone had with the VA was through the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center in New Jersey on December 12.
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