Former Navy Pilot Sues Government for VA Misdiagnosis

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A former U.S. Navy pilot alleges a Veterans Affairs doctor misdiagnosed him with with bipolar disorder. The former Navy pilot is now suing the federal government because that mental illness misdiagnosis caused him to lose his ability to fly commercial airplanes and be wrongly treated for the disorder for a decade.

In a lawsuit against the U.S. government filed recently, former United States Navy pilot William Royster stated that a VA medical center doctor diagnosed him with bipolar disorder in April 2004 and said he could not work in any capacity. Royster also contends that the doctor said his mental illness was permenant.

After undergoing treatments and taking medications for over 10 years, the former Navy pilot saw a different psychiatrist at the VA medical center. That psychiatrist told Royster he was not bipolar. he had been treated and medicated for more than 10 years for the disorder, Royster said a different psychiatrist at the medical center told him last November that he was not bipolar.

“From the review of the records, he (Mr. Royster) never had any manic symptoms and he never met the criteria for the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. … Thus in my professional opinion, I do not believe that Mr. Royster has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder,” Dr. Shreeja Kumar wrote on Nov. 18.

VA Says No Negligent of Wrongful Acts by VA Employees

Royster was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy after being shot down while flying a fighter jet on a training mission during Desert Storm in 1996. He ejected from his jet safely, but sustained injuries. A Navy surgeon told Royster the injuries he sustained in the crash would not limit his ability to fly commercial airplanes.

After his discharge from the Navy, Royster continued to be treated for his injuries at the Kansas City medical center. He also completed flight training and was hired by United Airlines to fly Boeing commercial planes in January 1998.

He held that position until the bipolar diagnosis in April 2004 grounded him.

Royster’s attorney filed an administrative tort claim that the Department of Veterans Affairs denied in August, saying it found no negligent or wrongful acts on the part of VA employees.

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