(CN) – A U.S. Army veteran who witnessed a fatal shooting in a Department of Veterans Affairs cafeteria is not entitled to compensation for “mental distress,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ruled.
Johnnie Mangham, who served 13 years in the Army in the ’60s and ’70s, was living at the Temple, Texas VA Domiciliary in October 2001 when another resident opened fire in the cafeteria during lunchtime, killing one veteran and injuring two others.
Though a 2002 mental health examination found that Mangham “did not evidence stress symptoms, sleep disturbance, or nightmares related to this incident,” in 2004 he entered a claim for a “service-connected injury” resulting from VA medical treatment.
VA denied his claim, saying that Mangham may have been sitting next to one of the victims during the shooting but “the evidence does not show that the (his) additional disability is actually the cause of VA care.”
Mangham appealed, but the Washington, D.C.-based appellant panel was unconvinced.
“Simply put, the mere fact that a claimant is harmed by an event that occurs coincidentally with VA hospital care, medical or surgical treatment, or an examination is not sufficient to establish causation,” wrote Judge Alan Lance for the three-judge panel. “Rather, the cause in fact of any injury that the appellant now suffers was the criminal action of a third party.”