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Widow, children to receive $5.75 million settlement after suicide at West Palm Beach VA Medical Center

Family of veteran with PTSD reaches settlement 4 years after 2019 suicide
Posted at 9:22 PM, Jul 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-14 21:25:27-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Emma Dash said that after her husband, Sgt. Brieux Dash, served two tours of duty in Iraq, he returned home with PTSD.

In 2019, she said her husband's anxiety was heightened by the stress of job loss and mounting bills.

Emma Dash then had him placed in the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center's psychiatric ward under the state's Baker Act law.

"I did send him there because I thought it was the best place to handle the situation," she said.

According to a lawsuit, Brieux Dash was seen by the VA as "a red flag high-risk suicide patient."

Three days after he was admitted, Brieux hanged himself in his room at the VA.

"It was all very shocking and disappointing," Emma recalled. "It hurts."

Sgt. Brieux Dash with wife Emma Dash and family
Sgt. Brieux Dash is photographed with his wife, Emma Dash, and children before his 2019 suicide at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center.

Two years after his death, Emma and their three children filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the VA, claiming the hospital was negligent in its supervision.

The suit claims staffers were supposed to check on Brieux every 15 minutes, but "did not document" any of his activity from 3:15 p.m. until he was found "nonresponsive" and "pulseless" shortly after 6 p.m.

The suit also claimed cameras to monitor patients "had not been operational for at least three years due to inadequate network capabilities."

"How did this go multiple years without being addressed?" Emma asked incredulously. "And how many people dropped how many balls for that to happen?"

Emma and her children recently reached a $5.75 million settlement with the VA.

In an email to WPTV, the VA stated:

"We offer our deepest condolences to Mr. Dash's family. As soon as this tragedy happened, we took immediate steps to improve the care we deliver, increase safety measures, and ensure that this does not happen again. New protocols include rigorous safety inspections, mental health environment-of-care reviews, enhanced training for employees, increased risk mitigations strategies, and upgrades to our security system – all of which will help prevent tragedies like this moving forward, both locally and across America. There is nothing more important to us than the health and safety of the veterans we serve, and we will not rest until every veteran knows that they can entrust us with their care."

When she was asked how confident she is that the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center would do a better job now than four years ago when her husband died by suicide, Emma answered, "I am not very confident."

Emma Dash not confident with West Palm Beach VA Medical Center after husband's suicide
"I am not very confident," Emma Dash says of the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center where her husband died by suicide in 2019.

"I don't have faith, now that I know what I know," she said.

Emma Dash said she wants to do something to help veterans and their mental health.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the suicide rate for veterans is 57% higher than for non-veteran adults.

If you're a veteran or know one wrestling with mental health issues, you can dial 988 and then press 1. Or veterans can also text 838255.

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