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Marine hit by car after Phoenix VA discharge sues for $15.1 million

(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — A Marine who was hit by a car after being discharged by the Phoenix Veterans Affairs hospital has filed a $15.1 million lawsuit against the facility.

The suit accuses the Carl T. Hayden Medical Center of medical negligence after Jonathan Cooper, a Marine, was left with life-threatening injuries in when he was hit by the car in 2013.

The suit said Cooper — a VA-diagnosed schizophrenic — arrived in Phoenix on Nov. 29, 2103, via bus from San Diego. His caregiver, Thumbelina Hinshaw, filed a missing person report. He was found in a neighborhood by police officers who were advised to take him to the closest VA hospital by Hinshaw.

Cooper was taken to the hospital near Seventh Street and Indian School Road, but staff allegedly discharged him shortly after despite him being disoriented, in a psychotic state and knowing he suffered from mental illness.

In the early morning hours of Nov. 30, 2013, Cooper was hit by a vehicle in front of the facility “as a result of the callous and reckless conduct of the VA medical center putting him back out on the streets when he needed them most,” Cooper’s attorney, Jason Patton, said

VA spokesperson Jean Schaefer said she cannot comment on pending litigation, but the hospital has added more staff — specifically social workers — to its emergency department since it was at the center of a nationwide scandal.

The Phoenix hospital was at the center of the wait-time scandal, which led to the ouster of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and a new, $16 billion law overhauling the labyrinthine veterans’ health care system.

An investigation by the VA’s office of inspector general found that workers at the Phoenix VA hospital falsified waiting lists, resulting in chronic delays for veterans seeking care. At least 40 patients died while awaiting appointments, the report said, but officials could not “conclusively assert” that the delays caused the deaths.

KTAR’s Martha Maurer and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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