On March 4, Jamie-Lee Hasted received a call informing her that her husband, retired Marine Lance Cpl. Hank Brandon Lee, had been found unresponsive in his room and was later pronounced dead.
Lee served in Afghanistan and had a disability rating of 100 percent after he came into contact with an improvised explosive device.
Autopsy report and medical records showed that Lee had a history of substance abuse and PTSD, a condition that has become prevalent among U.S soldiers who have had exposure to improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, during their deployment to wars.
Those with PTSD have difficulty concentrating, are extremely sensitive to sounds, have feelings of fear, and suffer from nightmares and disorientation. Lee had been using drugs and alcohol to cope with depression, anxiety and hallucinations that came with his mental condition. He sought help from the VA after a suicide attempt.
Prior to his death, Lee was under lockdown at the Department of Veterans Affairs psychiatric campus in Brockton. He seemed fine on his final checkup but was later discovered unresponsive.
His death certificate says that the father of three young children died of fentanyl overdose. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid pain reliever approved for treating severe pain such as those caused by advanced cancer, is up to 100 times more potent than morphine.
Questions Remain Unanswered
Some questions relating to Lee's death remain unanswered to this day. For one, how was it possible for the Mississippi Marine Corps veteran to obtain and overdose on the powerful opioid painkiller under the VA's watch?
VA spokesperson Pallas Wahl said that fentanyl was not prescribed to any patient within the inpatient psychiatric unit of the center, and Lee did not have personal visitors.
The VA said that it has no idea how Lee acquired the powerful drug. Lee had been searched two times but staff at the hospital did not find any substance on him.
Wahl said that although a review has been performed, the result is protected from disclosure under federal law.
Hasted said that she has no idea if her husband took the drug willingly or unwillingly and wonders if the drug was mixed into her husband's medicine. She also wants answers.
"Since he has passed, the VA has told us nothing," she said. "Answers, the bottom line is answers. ... Did he take it willingly, not willingly, mixed up in the medicine? You have video cameras, where is the video? What happened? Let me try to get some type of closure."