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Veteran sues VA for $500,000, says agency is responsible for therapist's misconduct

Ami Phillips mug shot courtesy Multnomah County Jail

PORTLAND, Ore. – A veteran is suing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for damages, blaming the agency for a former therapist’s professional misconduct.

In the lawsuit, the veteran, Luke Kirk, says he began receiving mental health treatment and therapeutic services from Ami D. Phillips, a licensed social worker employed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, on Nov. 19, 2015.

In April 2016, Philips began a personal relationship with Kirk while she was providing him mental health treatment.

Kirk said she engaged in physically touching, hugging and kissing during their mental health treatment sessions. He said she would sit on the counter next to him and put her legs over him.

He said in one session she took his hands and placed them on her hips and asked how it felt.

Phillips gave Kirk her personal cell phone number and called and exchanged more than 4,000 personal text messages with him. The lawsuit says she asked Kirk to marry her, raise an adoptive child with her and spend personal time together outside of their therapy sessions.

The two had social outings together, including going to Phillips’ apartment, meeting for drinks and having dinner at local restaurants.

Kirk says Phillips tried to initiate a sexual relationship him, but he refused to have sex with her.

On or around June 6, 2016, Kirk told Phillips he was going to report her to the VA. She told him if he reported their relationship to anyone, she would falsely tell the VA that he was dangerous and threatening her life.

Around June 8, 2016, Phillips falsely told the VA police that Kirk had threatened to kill her and was exhorting her for money.

This allegation prompted the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Clinic to shut down the mental health clinic for the rest of the day.

Phillips was arrested on Jan. 1, 2017. She pleaded guilty to attempted coercion and initiating a false report. She was sentenced to two days in jail and two years’ probation.

In the lawsuit, Kirk argues Phillips “breached the standard of care of professional social worker by using her professional position as [Kirk’s] mental health social worker to engender and foster a personal, physical relationship with [Kirk].”

He says Phillips’ false accusations that he was threatening her and extorting money from her caused him to fear criminal prosecution and interfered with his progress in therapy.

He’s asking to be compensated $500,000 the emotional distress.

He says he also suffered $6,000 in economic damages as a result of Phillips’ conduct when he moved from Portland to California to live closer to his family.

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