The Department of Veterans Affairs is being sued for $500,000 in emotional damages after a vet’sshort-lived relationship with his VA therapist spiraled out of control.
Luke Kirk, a 100% service-disabled patient at the Portland VA Medical Center, and his therapist, Ami Diane Phillips, had a personal relationship that extended well past the bounds of propriety (and VA regulations) from mid-April till early June of 2016, according to a Feb. 5 report by The Oregonian.
The relationship involved alleged sexual advances, marriage proposals, thousands of private text messages, a proposal to adopt and raise a child, and drinking, as well as phony claims about extortion and a death threat.
In a lawsuit filed Feb. 1, Kirk alleges that Phillips, a licensed social worker employed by the department, falsely reported him to VA police as dangerous in retaliation for his ending their relationship. Phillips already pleaded guilty last year to attempted coercion and initiating a false report and is serving two years probation, but in his suit, Kirk claims the VA should be liable for his therapist’s misconduct.
The lawsuit also alleges that “Phillips engaged in behavior that fell below the professional standards for a social worker,” including “physically touching, hugging, and kissing” Kirk during their sessions, according to documents obtained by The Oregonian.
The suit goes on to detail instances where the VA social worker would allegedly sit on a counter and drape her legs over Kirk — who, according to the suit, would “lean on Phillips, resting his head on her breast.”
During the relationship, the two exchanged some 4,000 text messages on their personal phones, met socially to drink, and continued to meet for their regular therapy sessions. Phillips allegedly asked Kirk to marry her, so they could adopt and raise a child. She also reportedly tried to initiate a sexual tryst with the patient; according to the lawsuit, he rebuffed her.
Kirk is seeking half a million dollars in damages for emotional distress, plus $6,000 to cover the moving costs from Portland to California, where he can be closer to his family for emotional support. The suit alleges that Kirk feared criminal prosecution and interference with his progress in therapy, arguing that the affair led him to lose trust in the VA’s medical and mental health care services.
Curt Cashour, a Veterans Affairs spokesman, declined to weigh in on Kirk’s suit, Phillips’ VA tenure, or the pair’s relationship, saying only that the “VA doesn’t typically comment on pending litigation.”
An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington, June 15, 2005. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the Guantanamo prison against critics who want it closed by saying U.S. taxpayers have a big financial stake in it and no other facility could replace it at a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday. (Reuters/Jason Reed JIR/CN)
The Pentagon is sending nearly 1,000 more troops to the Middle East as part of an escalating crisis with Iran that defense officials are struggling to explain.
The Marine lieutenant colonel removed from command of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May was ousted over alleged "misconduct" but has not been charged with a crime, Task & Purpose has learned.
Lt. Col. Francisco Zavala, 42, who was removed from his post by the commanding general of 1st Marine Division on May 7, has since been reassigned to the command element of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and a decision on whether he will be charged is "still pending," MEF spokeswoman 1st Lt. Virginia Burger told Task & Purpose last week.
"We are not aware of any ongoing or additional investigations of Lt. Col. Zavala at this time," MEF spokesman 2nd Lt. Brian Tuthill told Task & Purpose on Monday. "The command investigation was closed May 14 and the alleged misconduct concerns Articles 128 and 133 of the UCMJ," Tuthill added, mentioning offenses under military law that deal with assault and conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.
"There is a period of due process afforded the accused and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.
When asked for an explanation for the delay, MEF officials directed Task & Purpose to contact 1st Marine Division officials, who did not respond before deadline.
The investigation of Zavala, completed on May 3 and released to Task & Purpose in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that he had allegedly acted inappropriately. The report also confirmed some details of his wife's account of alleged domestic violence that Task & Purpose first reported last month.