ARLINGTON, Va. — Marine Reserve Cpl. Jeffrey Lucey hanged himself on June 22, 2004, about three weeks after being released as an inpatient from the Northampton Veterans Medical Center in Leeds, Mass.

His parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the U.S. government, claiming the VA initially refused to treat him for post-traumatic stress disorder because they required him to be sober first.

Now they will receive $350,000 under a settlement with the U.S. government that was announced Thursday by Military Families Speak Out, an anti-war group to which they both belong.

"The Government killed my son," Lucey’s father, Kevin, said in Thursday’s news release. "It sent him into an illegal and reckless war and then, when he returned home, it denied him the basic health care he needed."

Kevin Lucey and his wife, Joyce, were not immediately available for comment on Thursday.

The settlement concludes all litigation brought by Lucey’s parents related to their son’s death, said their attorney Cristobal Bonifaz.

Military Families Speak Out provided a copy of the letter from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Massachusetts offering the settlement.

The letter calls Lucey’s suicide a "tragedy," but it notes that it promoted several important changes.

"Changes since 2004 include the hiring of suicide prevention coordinators for each medical center, 100 new adjustment counselors for the VA’s 207 Vet Centers, and 100 new medical center employees to serve as advocates for the severely wounded," the letter said.

In other changes, the VA Office of the Inspector General issued a report in 2006 that found, "A requirement for sustained sobriety should not be a barrier to treatment in specialized inpatient Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for returning veterans."

In response, the VA issued a November 2007 memo that made clear patients suffering from PTSD and substance abuse problems could be treated for both disorders simultaneously.

"[Veterans Health Administration] facilities and providers must never take the position that patient is untreatable because substance use or dependence precludes treating mental health conditions while mental illness makes it impossible to treat abuse or dependence," the memo said.

Outreach center created to aid veterans and families

The Defense Department has established an outreach center for servicemembers, veterans and families to get information on psychological health issues and traumatic brain injury.

Staffed by behavioral health consultants and nurses, the outreach center will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to a Defense Department news release.

"The center can deal with everything from routine requests for information about psychological health and traumatic brain injury, to questions about symptoms a caller is having, to helping a caller find appropriate health care resources," the news release said.

Those interested in reaching the center can call (866) 966-1020 or send an e-mail to:

People with no connection to the military are also welcome to contact the outreach center, said Brig. Gen. Lori Sutton, director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

"We’ll talk with anyone who calls us," Sutton said.

The center has 21 consultants to answer calls, she said. All calls are confidential.

— Jeff Schogol

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