© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Government Ordered To Pay More Than $1 Million To Yet Another Veteran Abused At Leavenworth VA

Mark Wisner worked as a physician assistant at the Dwight D. Eisenhower VA Medical Center in Leavenworth, Kansas, pictured here. He is now serving a prison sentence of nearly 16 years.

Mark Wisner was convicted of aggravated sexual battery and aggravated criminal assault in 2017 and sentenced to nearly 16 years in prison.

A federal judge has awarded more than $1 million in damages to yet another veteran who was abused by a former physician assistant at the Leavenworth VA.

It’s the third time since November that U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree has ruled against the government in cases brought by veterans charging the government with medical malpractice.

The veterans allege they were subjected to unnecessary genital exams and other physical abuse by Mark Wisner, who was a physician assistant at the Dwight D. Eisenhower VA Medical Center from 2008 to 2014.

Wisner was convicted of aggravated sexual battery and aggravated criminal assault in 2017 and sentenced to nearly 16 years in prison. He surrendered his license to the Kansas Board of Healing Arts in February 2015.

Wisner is thought to have abused as many as 100 military veterans. More than 80 of them settled their lawsuits against the government in 2019 for $7 million.

Several veterans, however, chose to take their cases to trial rather than settle. The cases have been tried remotely via Zoom before Crabtree, who in November awarded $538,000 in damages to one veteran and more than $1.5 million to another.

The lawyer representing the veterans, Danny Thomas, said he has yet to hear whether the government intends to pay the judgments.

“Presumably they want to appeal,” he said in an email. “That is fine. We have waited this long. We have no problem continuing the fight.”

Thomas, who said he was getting ready to tee up five more cases for trial, slammed the government for not investigating the VA Health System over what happened.

“It would appear our government has forgotten about these men who risked their lives in combat for this nation,” he said. “I am honored, however, that the United States District Court for the District of Kansas has spoken for these men. The Court has told these men their sacrifices mean something and what the VA did to them is absolutely horrible. The Court has spoken when no other body within the federal government even bothered to investigate.”

A spokesman for the Leavenworth VA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The verdict handed down Friday by Crabtree concerned a veteran who had seen Wisner for shoulder pain. Evidence showed that during various medical exams, Wisner performed genital exams on him without gloves, had him disrobe and made sexual comments to him.

In his 50-page ruling, Crabtree, as he did in his previous rulings, found that the Leavenworth VA “wholly failed to comply” with the VA’s policy on reporting and tracking allegations of sexual misconduct at its facilities.

“The VA should have foreseen that this omission could produce serious problems if a VA employee took advantage of his position in interactions with patrons,” he wrote.

He also found that “the preponderance of evidence established – and by a wide margin – that plaintiff sustained additional PTSD because of his encounters with Wisner.”

Although the government didn’t dispute that Wisner sexually molested veterans, it argued it shouldn’t be held accountable for his conduct because it was outside the scope of his employment.

As in the earlier cases, Crabtree rejected that argument, finding that Wisner’s conduct was foreseeable.

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.