The United States government has agreed to pay $6.97 million to settle dozens of civil lawsuits filed by military veterans sexually abused during medical exams in Kansas, attorneys for the veterans announced Tuesday.
Kansas City, Mo.-based law firm Brown and Curry said in a news release that the money is being shared by 82 victims of Mark Wisner, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence for sexually assaulting veterans during improper and medically unnecessary genital exams from 2012 to 2014. The assaults, which included fondling and intrusive questions about patients' sex lives, happened while veterans were under Wisner's care at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leavenworth.
Wisner was convicted in criminal court in 2017 of criminal sodomy, aggravated sexual battery and sexual battery. The 68-year-old is listed as a minimum-security inmate in the Norton Correctional Facility.
The civil lawsuits say veterans administration officials ignored signs that Wisner "was committing widespread, large-scale malpractice" on patients and failed to report his conduct to police and the Kansas Board of Healing Arts, the state's medical licensing agency.
"What happened at the VA Medical Center should have never occurred, and Mark Wisner should not have been permitted to continue working," Dan Curry, an attorney for the veterans, said in the news release.
"Multiple times, the VA administration at that hospital had reports that Wisner was behaving inappropriately. One of his earliest victims committed suicide not long after the VA police interviewed him about Mark Wisner. This was years before Wisner physically assaulted more than 90 veterans. Someone needed to connect the dots."
The VA has previously said it halted Wisner's patient visits and launched an investigation after the abuse allegations surfaced. Wisner worked at the hospital from 2008 to 2014.
He surrendered his medical license in 2015 after at least seven patients complained about the abuse.
Curry in the news release said the $6.97 million settlement "was a compromise" to avoid making the veterans wait for a resolution that could take years had the cases gone to trial.
A Missouri judge decided how to divide the money among the veterans who sued. As of last week, all payments had been distributed.
Jason Weiser, a Bonner Springs veteran who sued over Wisner's actions and participated in the settlement, said in the release that he's glad the case is over and that the VA acknowledged "that what happened was wrong."
"I hope they make changes for the better," he said.
©2019 The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.