Dying Valley vet who filed lawsuit against Phoenix VA testifies

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Army Veteran Steven Cooper took the stand Tuesday in his $50 million medical malpractice lawsuit against the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

Cooper, who was diagnosed with stage 4 terminal prostate cancer, believes his cancer could have been cured had he gotten the proper medical attention he needed from the Phoenix VA.

Cooper explained to a federal court judge that he waited for months to see a physician’s assistant in 2011. When he finally saw her, she found his prostate to be asymmetrical but ordered no further test. Cooper said when he left her office he believed nothing was wrong with his prostate.

[RELATED: Dying veteran's medical malpractice case against VA starts Monday]

A year later, a VA doctor diagnosed him with stage 4 terminal prostate cancer.

“You have one of the worst cases of prostate cancer I have seen in my life. There’s nothing I can or will do for you. Hospice will be calling you,” said Cooper, recalling how the VA doctor broke the news to him.

The “never give up” soldier sought outside medical attention and underwent surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and a number of other treatments. But he has been left with debilitating side effects and life-altering complications.

[ORIGINAL STORY: Valley veteran dying of cancer files $50 million lawsuit against Phoenix VA]

Valley urologist, Dr. Kevin Bigelow, treated Cooper. He also testified Tuesday. Bigelow told the judge had Cooper’s cancer been diagnosed and treated a year earlier than it was, there’s a high likelihood he could have been cured.

Valley veterans are keeping a close eye on this trial. Several every day are in the courtroom listening to testimony.

On Tuesday, veteran James Schlueter was listening in. He said he was there to support Cooper because Cooper had helped him and many other veterans navigate the VA medical system.

[RELATED: $50 million civil trial accuses Phoenix VA of medical malpractice]

“I told Steve, ‘I’m lost. I’m about to be one of those 22 veterans that plant themselves in the parking lot over there.' He goes, ‘No, brother, let me hook you up,’” said Schlueter, referring to the estimated 22 Veterans who commit suicide each day.

Many people believe this trial could have national implications. Schlueter is hoping for a win for Cooper, but no only for Cooper, for veterans everywhere.

“If he can be successful here and we can make some positive changes at the VA, it’ll be a good thing. I think with the dollar amount that’s attached to it, it should be real important. Because if we can actually be successful here maybe the VA might say, ‘Hey, they finally hit us where it actually hurts,’” said Schlueter. 

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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Donna RossiEmmy Award-winning reporter Donna Rossi joined CBS 5 News in September 1994.

Click to learn more about Donna.

Donna Rossi

In that time, Donna has covered some of the most high-profile stories in the Valley and across the state. Donna's experience as a four-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department gives her a keen sense of crime and court stories. She offered gavel to gavel coverage of the 1999 sleepwalking murder trial of Scott Falater, and the trial and conviction of retired Catholic Bishop Thomas O'Brien for a fatal hit and run accident. She also spent 2 straight weeks in northeastern Arizona in the summer of 2011 covering the Wallow Fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona history.

Donna's reputation as a fair and accurate journalist has earned her the respect of her colleagues and community. Her talent as a reporter has earned her more than a dozen Arizona Associated Press Awards and five Emmy statue.

Donna previously worked as an anchor and reporter in Tucson and got her start in broadcast journalism in Flagstaff. Donna is a past president of the Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and currently serves on the NATAS board. She is a member of IFP/Phoenix, a non-profit organization of local film and documentary makers.

Donna was born in New York and moved to the Valley with her family when she was 9 years old. She is a graduate of Maryvale High School and attended Arizona State University. She graduated cum laude from Northern Arizona University.

In her free time, Donna enjoys boating on Bartlett Lake, all forms of music and theatre. Donna frequently donates her time to speak to community organizations and emcee their events. She is a past board member of DUET, a non-profit which helps promote health and well-being for older adults. Donna also loves donating her time to youth organizations and groups who work to secure and safeguard human rights.

On Oct. 17, 2015, Donna was honored for her amazing work over the years. The Rocky Mountain Chapter of the National Academy of Televisions Arts and Sciences inducted her into its Silver Circle. It's one of the organization's most prestigious honors for which only a few candidates are selected each year.

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