Pennsylvania Mass Murderer Had VA Brain Injury Claim Denied Under ‘Surge’ Program

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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Bradley Stone, a veteran of the Iraq war who killed six family members and himself earlier this week, had 17 disability claims — including one for traumatic brain injury — rejected by the VA, which reviewed his claims under a “surge” program the agency implemented last year.

Stone, who was diagnosed with 100 percent service-connected post traumatic stress disorder in Oct. 2010, had filed new disability claims in Oct. 2013 for issues ranging from the traumatic brain injury to muscle and joint pain, sleep apnea, and headaches, according to records obtained by The Daily Caller.

On Monday, the 35-year-old veteran, who received an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps, shot his ex-wife — with whom he was in a child custody dispute — and shot or stabbed five of her family members in a spree which spanned several locations in Montgomery County, Penn.

After a massive manhunt, Stone was found dead on Tuesday from self-inflicted wounds.

Stone’s recent claims were handled under a VA program implemented in May 2013 to help reduce a claims backlog at the agency.

“This case is rated under ‘Surge’ guidance,” reads a March 18, 2014 VA rating decision document in which Stone’s new disability claims were rejected.

The first two pages of Stone’s rating decision document list the 17 disability claims Stone had filed.

The surge, announced by then-Sec. Eric Shinseki, mandated overtime for claims processors at 56 regional offices to help clear the claims backlog.

The surge was generally well-received when it was announced, but some questioned the move, wondering why, if the VA had the capability to clear the claims backlog, one existed in the first place.

One VA employee with years of experience working veterans’ PTSD claims — who asked not to be named out of fear of retaliation — told TheDC he believes that under the surge, “veterans may have been denied elementary due process required by law, and medical exams may have been denied, in VA leadership’s usual attempt to escape public scrutiny and accountability.”

Shinseki resigned earlier this year amid a massive scandal in which regional hospitals were found to have systematically delayed care for veterans.

It is unclear whether Stone would have received any additional treatment for a TBI diagnosis above and beyond what he was receiving for PTSD.

TBI has been associated with mood swings, irritability and depression.

One Marine veteran who served alongside Stone rejected the idea that Stone’s actions could be blamed on any ailment he may have sustained during the war.

“A lot of us come home with it, but you can’t blame what happened there on PTSD,” the veteran told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “It really is the person you are underneath that will decide if you do something like this.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs did not respond to questions about Stone’s traumatic brain injury claim or the “surge” guidance but did say that it is reviewing his claims history.

The agency did provide information on care Stone received from the VA.

Stone’s last monthly compensation for his PTSD disability was $3,268.

He had received care at several VA facilities, including the Philadelphia VA Medical Center.

He also met with his psychiatrist on Dec. 8 at the Coatesville VA Medical Center.

“The provider noted that at the time of the evaluation, the Veteran was without any suicidal or homicidal ideation,” the VA said in a statement.

According to the Vietnam Veterans Association of America, veterans given a 100 percent service-connected PTSD diagnosis experience “persistent danger of hurting self or others.”

Stone’s last interaction with the agency came on Dec. 12 at the War Related and Injury Study Center, in East Orange, New Jersey, as part of the Veterans Justice Outreach Program.

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