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Oregon vet sues VA over therapist threat for ending relationship

By Ray Downs

Feb. 6 (UPI) -- An Oregon veteran filed a lawsuit this month against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs after his therapist coerced him into an intimate relationship and threatened to report him if he broke it off.

The plaintiff, Luke Kirk, says the VA is liable for the actions of his former VA therapist Ami Diane Phillips, who pleaded guilty in January 2017 to attempted coercion and initiating a false report. The Oregonian reported that she was later sentenced to two days in jail, two years of probation, mental health counseling and 40 hours of community service.

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Phillips began seeing Kirk outside of therapy sessions and they exchanged more than 4,000 text messages with each other, the lawsuit states. At one point, Phillips asked Kirk to marry her and adopt a child together.

The lawsuit states that Phillips tried to make sexual advances but Kirk refused.

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By June 2016, Kirk told Phillips he would report her to the VA.

"Phillips told [Kirk] that if he reported their relationship to anyone she would report plaintiff to the VA police as dangerous and for threatening her life. The allegations that he was dangerous and that he had threatened Phillips were false," the lawsuit states.

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Kirk did file a complaint against Phillips, which she responded to by telling VA police that he "threatened to kill her and was extorting her for money."

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Kirk's attorneys said their client suffered from the experience and is entitled to damages.

"As a result of Phillips' negligent conduct, plaintiff suffered from fear of criminal prosecution, interference with his progress in therapy, loss of trust in other medical or mental health providers, interference with ongoing medical and mental health treatment, pain, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of interest in life and suicidal ideation, anxiety, and will suffer future emotional distress for which plaintiff is entitled to be compensated in the amount of $500,000," the lawsuit states.

Kirk is also seeking another $6,000 to cover the cost of his move to California "to live closer to his family, who provides emotional support."

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