(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte County woman is fighting the Veterans Administration to ensure that the tragic death of her husband was not in vain.
On the night of October 15th, 2020, Chief Warrant Officer Jason Moon took his own life in his bedroom closet following years of mental anguish related to his military service.
The 33-year-old combat veteran left behind five children and his wife of 14 years, LaShanda.
Jason Moon served two tours as a medevac crew member during Operation Iraqi Freedom. One of the missions was particularly brutal. LaShanda says her husband would never speak about his deployment, and details about it are sealed to this day.
After returning to civilian life, Moon continued service in the Army National Guard, eventually achieving his dream of becoming a Blackhawk helicopter pilot. But an emotional war, held over from his time in Iraq, continued inside Moon. Nightmares and anxiety led to drinking, then to unpredictable and sometimes violent behavior. Friends and family were all too aware of Jason’s struggles. Local law enforcement intervened. But according to LaShanda, the VA was not interested.
“Veterans usually don’t have enough energy to fight the VA system,” she said. “They settle for waiting months for appointments or being treated as less-than. Many veterans just don’t follow through with care once they see how big of a hassle it is. This includes those still serving. Spouses are told we can’t open our mouths because it’ll affect the soldier’s career.”
According to Moon, her husband was never properly diagnosed with PTSD and ran into nothing but roadblocks trying to find psychiatric care during the pandemic. His suicide was a shock, but more than enough warning signs were there.
In October La Shanda Moon filed a claim for wrongful death against the Veterans Administration. She says the South Bend Vet Center failed to diagnose or treat her husband’s serious PTSD.
Moon said a federal investigation was prompted by her complaints and the cooperation of five whistleblowers. When local authorities were unable to take action, U.S. Senator Mike Braun and Representative Jackie Walorski launched an inquiry. Two other families were also named in the investigation, but Moon says they didn’t want to endure the heartache of litigation, leaving her to carry the banner on her own. According to Moon, “They were like- if you want to drop out, you can, but we cannot move forward without one of you still in this. And so I was like, nope, we’re going to take it as far as we can.”
Despite numerous warning signs, Moon’s husband was put in the counseling care of an unlicensed intern in May 2020. Subsequent meetings, all during the pandemic, were conducted only over the phone.
Moon’s complaint alleges that the VA ignored the problems of her husband and other veterans. VA staffers have come forward to testify that dysfunction in the office contributed to Jason’s downward spiral.
LaShanda is hoping to cut through layers of red tape to make mental health services better for future veterans and their families. “Family members don’t know they have rights after the veteran is gone,” Moon said. “Nothing I do or say going forward can affect Jason’s career but it can bring light to the issues. I can be the voice for those who are too tired to fight for the healthcare they deserve.”
As it is, Moon is still struggling to get proper assistance. “My children were promised bereavement therapy by the Vet Center, and they didn’t follow through,” Moon said. “so I now pay out of pocket for my kids’ mental health care regarding their dad’s death. They won’t even give me my own personal medical records, so I can take them elsewhere. I mean, policies need to change.”
Moon is seeking restitution for her husband’s funeral, as well as other compensatory damages. The VA has until April 14th to answer the claim. Otherwise, Moon’s case will go to a federal district court.
Statistics suggest that an average of 22 American veterans commit suicide every day.