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Iraq War Veteran Will Spend Holidays Behind Bars

Allaine Benson holds her husband Erik Benson in this undated photo.

Credit: Photo provided Allaine Benson

Above: Allaine Benson holds her husband Erik Benson in this undated photo.

A San Diego Iraq War veteran with two small children is spending the holidays in jail after the VA San Diego Healthcare System pressed charges against him.

Erik Benson, who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, has been in federal custody since November 27, after he left angry, threatening voicemail messages for his doctor and staff.

Benson sustained a traumatic brain injury when a bomb exploded near him in 2010 while he was serving in Iraq. Eventually, he received a medical discharge from the Army.

His wife, Allaine Benson, says he ran out of the medication for five days when he began demanding over the phone that the VA fill his prescription.

“Because he has traumatic brain injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - that does not properly allow him to think as we do," she said. "He doesn’t have that risk thing, that, 'Oh, I shouldn’t be saying this. I should not be saying that.'"

His attorney, Alex Fuqua, said the VA should have understood Benson’s condition.

“Just have a thicker skin," he said. "At the VA, you are dealing with people who have gone through severe trauma. And sometimes expressing yourselves while under the stress of that trauma and continued trauma becomes difficult.”

This is the second time the VA has pressed charges against Benson. In 2016, he became one of the first veterans diverted to veteran’s treatment court in the federal court system in San Diego. He successfully completed treatment at the Aspire Center – one of the VA’s premier programs for treating post-9/11 vets who suffer from PTSD.

Charges were brought by federal prosecutors for the Southern District of California. In a statement issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Adam Braverman said, "we will vigorously prosecute threats of violence against federal employees. No person should face threats of violence simply for doing their job.”

As the holidays approach, Allaine Benson said it is difficult explaining what’s happened to their two young boys.

“It’s hard. My kids doesn’t know. They’re too young. I told them dad is getting evaluated. Because they know he had PTSD and traumatic brain injury and that he’s been gone because of that.”

The VA also issued their own statement saying, “VA facilities are unable to treat Veterans who are actively in judicial custody. The (VA) is dedicated to assisting all eligible justice-involved Veterans upon release from judicial custody.”

The defense asked for a continuance last week in order to have an expert witness available to testify about Benson’s condition. Benson’s next court date is scheduled for Jan. 10.

Iraq War veteran Spending Holidays In Jail

The VA in San Diego is pressing charges against Erik Benson, who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because he left threatening voicemail messages for his doctor.


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Steve Walsh
Military Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover military and veterans issues for KPBS and American Homefront, a partnership of public radio stations and NPR. I cover issues ranging from delpoying troops along the California border to efforts to lower suicide rates among veterans.

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