Family of deceased Iraq war veteran suing VA over suicide hotline foul-up

U.S. Army veteran Tom Young

An Illinois veteran’s family is suing the VA for what they feel was total negligence of care that ultimately led to his suicide.

Filing a wrongful death suit on Tuesday, the widow and children of Army veteran Tom Young claim he committed suicide after his suicide hotline calls were repeatedly dropped or mishandled.

Tom Young
Young family photo

The 30-year old veteran veteran attempted to receive help from the VA four times in order to deal with suicidal thoughts- brought on by alcoholism and depression stemming from trauma during service.

Tom Young has served seven years in the US Army, doing two tours in Iraq with the 10th Mountain Division. Upon his return, he was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“It was very obvious as time went by that the demons he was battling,” said Tom’s brother, Will Young.

Working as a handyman and plumber to support his wife and two girls, Tom struggled with PTSD alcohol abuse, seeking admittance into the VA hospital three times, according to ABC7.

“The first two times he was turned away, told he didn’t qualify for treatment because he wasn’t suicidal. The third time he was suicidal and he was put on a waiting list,” Will says.

Running out of options, Tom called the VA’s suicide hotline- and was sent to voicemail.

Tom Young took his life on July 23rd, 2015, having thrown himself in front of a moving commuter train.

“He took his life,” says Will. “And, uh, the day after, we got a call from the VA that, um, a bed was available and then about 20 minutes later, we got a call from the suicide hotline returning his call.”

When Tom took his own life, he had been placed on a waiting list for treatment at the VA. When the VA called to tell Tom that they had a spot for him, his family informed them that it was too late.

“The news of those calls was almost as bad as the news he was gone; that we were so close,” Will says.

When Illinois Senator Mark Kirk found out about the suicide, he brought it up in a budget hearing before VA officials, who admitted that the situation was unacceptable.

“There is no voice mail today, I can assure you of that. That’s unacceptable. That was done by a contractor,” said Dr. David J. Shulkin, Undersecretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In 2008, CBS reported on leaked emails written by Dr. Ira Katz, the VA’s head of mental health at the time, that suggested the VA was deliberately covering up the volume of veteran suicides.

VA email

The $18 million lawsuit was filed yesterday by Chicago law firm Mitchell, Hoffman and Wolf.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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