It is rare that conservative bloggers like myself, who occasionally writes Republican news, would report on such an article from the likes of the left-leaning Washington Post but as a veteran, this story is something that knows no political boundaries.
Veterans are 1.5 times as likely as civilians to die by suicide, after adjusting for age and gender. In 2016, the veteran suicide rate was 26.1 per 100,000, compared with 17.4 per 100,000 for non-veteran adults, according to a VA recent federal report.
VA Spokesperson Curt Cashour told the Washington Post that before 2017, the VA did not separately track on-campus suicides.
Emily Wax-Thibodeaux of the Washington Post begins her reporting concerning Justin Miller, a 33-year-old Marine Corps trumpet player and Iraq veteran who had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who shot and killed himself at the VA Minneapolis hospital parking lot in February 2018.
Alissa Harrington took an audible breath as she slid open a closet door deep in her home office. This is where she displays what’s too painful, too raw to keep out in the open.
In the display shows framed photos of her younger brother, Justin Miller, a 33-year-old Marine Corps trumpet player and Iraq veteran. Blood-spattered safety glasses recovered from the snow-covered Nissan Frontier truck where his body was found. A phone filled with the last text messages from his father: “We love you. We miss you. Come home.”
After spending four days in the mental-health unit, Miller walked to his truck in VA’s parking lot and shot himself in the very place he went to find help.
“The fact that my brother, Justin, never left the VA parking lot — it’s infuriating,” said Harrington, 37. “He did the right thing; he went in for help. I just can’t get my head around it.”
A federal investigation into Miller’s death found that the Minneapolis VA made multiple errors: not scheduling a follow-up appointment, failing to communicate with his family about the treatment plan and inadequately assessing his access to firearms. Several days after his death, Miller’s parents received a package from the Department of Veterans Affairs — bottles of antidepressants and sleep aids prescribed to Miller.
His death is among 19 suicides that occurred on VA campuses from October 2017 to November 2018, seven of them in parking lots, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. While studies show that every suicide is highly complex — influenced by genetics, financial uncertainty, relationship loss and other factors — mental-health experts worry that veterans taking their lives on VA property has become a desperate form of protest against a system that some veterans feel hasn’t helped them.
The most recent VA parking lot suicide occurred in December 2018 when retired Marine Col. Jim Turner put on his dress uniform and medals and drove to the Bay Pines Department of Veterans Affairs complex. Turner got out of his truck, sat down on top of his military and medical records and took his own life with a rifle.
I am pleased that those like Emily Wax-Thibodeaux report and shed light on what veterans with PTSD go through and the tragic ending for many veterans. As has in the case in the past, many, not all, DC Democrat politicians worry more about illegal aliens and other so-called “non-issues” than “We the U.S. Military Veterans” of this great nation. It is time that ends and that it ends now!
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