- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2014

A former Marine who killed six family members and himself this week had been denied claims for new benefits by the Department of Veterans Affairs, including a claim for traumatic brain injury.

Bradley Stone’s claims for 17 different medical conditions were rejected under the VA’s “surge” program aimed at clearing a backlog of claims in the beleaguered agency, according to documents obtained by The Washington Times.

In March, a reviewer in the VA’s Philadelphia regional office said Stone’s new claims were being rejected “under surge guidance.”

The VA reviewer said in the documents that all of Stone’s new complaints were “not service-related.”

Stone, who had been in a bitter child-custody battle with his ex-wife, killed members of her family Monday. His body was found near his home in Pennsylvania on Tuesday with self-inflicted stab wounds and cuts.

He had a 100 percent disability rating at the VA for post-traumatic stress disorder and had seen his psychiatrist just one week prior to the incident, a VA spokesman told The Washington Times on Wednesday.

The VA spokesman didn’t address the issue of Stone’s later claims for additional benefits being denied.

The “surge” to expedite claims for veterans benefits was instituted in 2013 by then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki at the agency’s 56 regional benefits offices nationwide. The program gave VA employees overtime to process more of the backlogged claims that were to cause a media firestorm and contribute to Mr. Shinseki’s resignation.

At the time, Mr. Shinseki said the “surge” would “help eliminate the backlog with continued emphasis on high-priority claims for homeless Veterans and those claiming financial hardship, the terminally ill, former prisoners of war, Medal of Honor recipients, and veterans filing fully developed claims.”

A VA spokesman said Stone met with his psychiatrist on Dec. 8 at the Coatesville, Pennsylvania, VA facility, “and the provider noted that at the time of the evaluation, the veteran was without any suicidal or homicidal ideation.”

Just three days before the attack, Stone was at the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center in East Orange, New Jersey. The Dec. 12 visit there as part of the Veterans Justice Outreach Program was his final interaction with the VA, the spokesman said.

Documents show that Stone filed the claim for additional benefits in October 2013, listing pain in his arms, hands, back and also claiming the effects of traumatic brain injury, along with headaches.

Stone had served three months in Iraq in 2008. His rating of 100 percent service-connected for post-traumatic stress disorder meant that he was fully impaired from working and that he should have been considered “a persistent danger of hurting self or others,” according to VA guidelines.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Stone, 35, agreed not to own any firearms when he was sentenced for drunken-driving last year in a Montgomery County court. The paper said it was unclear whether anyone sought to ascertain whether he had any guns.

When the VA reviewer denied Stone’s new claim in March, the examiner wrote that “any additional information (on Stone’s PTSD) … would have no bearing on the claim; therefore, further development for these records is not warranted.”

When authorities found Stone’s body Tuesday in woods near his suburban Philadelphia home, he had an ax, a machete and two prescription pill bottles beside him. The youngest two of his victims suffered what officials called “chopping wounds.” The adults were shot.

An autopsy showed that Stone neither shot nor fatally stabbed himself, although he had non-fatal cut wounds on his legs. Toxicology tests are being conducted to determine how he died.

The VA said Stone received full service-related disability of about $3,260 a month.

A week after he lost a custody decision, authorities said, Stone broke into three homes early Monday and killed his ex-wife, her mother, her grandmother, her sister, her brother-in-law and her 14-year-old niece. A 17-year-old nephew survived but suffered a skull fracture and other injuries.

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