A federal lawsuit filed against the Department of Veterans Affairs alleges that a Kansas City airline pilot lost his job after he was misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder.
The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City on behalf of William Royster seeks a $35 million judgment against the U.S. government.
Royster filed the suit after a psychiatrist with the VA undertook a “thorough” review of his case and conducted “numerous” examinations of him in 2013 and 2014. The doctor determined that another psychiatrist who had diagnosed Royster in 2004 was incorrect.
“From the review of the records, he never had any manic symptoms and he never met the criteria for the diagnosis of bi-polar disorder,” Shreeja Kumar stated in a November 2014 letter. “Thus in my professional opinion, I do not believe that Mr. Royster has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.”
Royster made headlines in the Kansas City area when he lost a 2010 election for the Missouri General Assembly by one vote to John Rizzo. Two of Rizzo’s relatives later pleaded guilty to voter fraud after voting in the election although they did not live in the district.
According to his suit against the VA, Royster was a pilot with the U.S. Navy who was injured in 1996 when his jet was shot down by a Japanese ship during a Pacific Ocean training exercise.
He left the Navy the next year and in 1998 was hired as a first officer with United Airlines, flying commercial airliners.
In 2003, a VA doctor suggested to Royster that he go to the VA counseling center to be evaluated for possible post-traumatic stress disorder, according to his suit.
During that examination, the suit alleges, a psychiatrist diagnosed him with bipolar disorder II in 2004. Royster was told that the disorder “is a permanent, lifelong diagnosis.”
“Based upon the diagnosis of bipolar disorder II, Mr. Royster was forced to be medically grounded from his position as a commercial pilot with United Airlines and was subsequently medically discharged,” according to the lawsuit.
Over the next decade, medical staff at the VA in Kansas City “continued to affirm and re-affirm” the diagnosis, and continued to proscribe medication for the disorder.
The suit alleges that during that time, VA employees “concealed from Mr. Royster pertinent facts including the fact that their diagnosis of bipolar disorder II was incorrect.”
A spokesman for the VA Medical Center in Kansas City said Monday that comments are typically not made on pending litigation. Royster on Monday said his attorney had advised him to not comment while the suit is pending. His attorney could not be immediately reached for comment.