Amid Allegations of Healthcare Problems at the Phoenix VA, Another Veteran Suicide

Categories: News
veterans.jpg
DVIDSHUB via Flickr


The Phoenix Veterans' Affairs Health Care System has come under fire for allegations of negligence and delayed care. While delayed care can have drastic consequences on vets who are physically ill, it impacts those who are mentally ill as well.

On January 13, a veteran committed suicide in the Phoenix VA parking lot. His body was found the next day. In an e-mail to the staff obtained by New Times, Phoenix VA Director Sharon Helman stated that the veteran was "alone and did not not seek medical care through nearby emergency services on the day of the incident." This suicide does not appear to have been reported in the media until now.

Additionally, about six months before that, Daniel Summers, a 30-year-old Iraq War veteran from Phoenix, took his life. In his suicide note, which his family shared, Summers said the government gave him "no help" for the injuries he suffered in combat, claiming that he was unable to receive immediate medical care.

Arizona has some of the highest rates of veteran suicides, with vets making up over one in five suicides nationally. Matthew Andrade, a veteran who served in Iraq, believes the high suicide rate could be due to the quick transition from combat to civilian life.

"You go from all the horrible things you experience in war straight into what people consider normal life," Andrade says. "That transition's hard for veterans."

Upon returning from combat, many veterans struggle with adjusting to civilian life. Some suffer from PTSD or other psychological disorders. And while the VA offers a variety of services to treat a whole array of issues, sometimes it's not enough.

"It took me almost three years to get my compensation to where it was supposed to be for my PTSD disability. They told me to my face that they were just so backlogged with cases, that they're struggling to keep up," Andrade says. "There's just so many veterans getting out that need this assistance that they can't keep up."

Allegations of misconduct against the VA include mismanagement, undeserved bonuses, and falsifying records, which have already led to congressional hearings. As a result of the allegations, the VA released a statement saying that they asked for an external review by the VA Inspector General to investigate.

"If the OIG finds areas that need to be improved, we will swiftly address them as our goal is to provide the best care possible to our Veterans," the statement says.

U.S. Representative Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, has already called for action in certain states, including Arizona.

"When errors do occur, and they seem to be occurring with alarming frequency, what VA owes our veterans and our taxpayers, in that order, is a timely, transparent, accurate, and honest account about what mistakes happened, how those mistakes are being fixed, and what concrete actions are being taken to ensure accountability," Miller said at a committee hearing last Wednesday.

But some legislators are working on change. U.S. Representative Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona introduced legislation earlier this year to provide additional veteran medical services to help overcome VA backlog, and she recently introduced legislation to help protect veterans' personal information in the VA system. But for now, advocates want the system to properly provide help for veterans.

"Sometimes we struggle," Andrade says. "We just want the care that veterans need to function and become contributing members of society again."

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX.


Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
35 comments
Heath Clouse
Heath Clouse

More in need of a pro bono veterans rights lawyer than another health plan... But thanks..

Esteban Fraijo
Esteban Fraijo

Sounds like you guys can use some affordable healthcare access. I live in phoenix, and I go to Ameriplan network providers. You can find out more by calling or going to the website.

Sheryl Lee Groth-Cuevas
Sheryl Lee Groth-Cuevas

My hubby & I both are veterans. He used to work at the VA. AND, he goes there now for treatment and this does not surprise me. This nation does not take care of it's veterans. It's sad.

DN Heath
DN Heath

I found that there is only one service organization in the entire valley that actually gives a damn but they only help if you are a MST veteran. We all need help. Most of the other organizations pretend to care but really do not .

Heath Clouse
Heath Clouse

I wish there was someone out there that could help, without charging an arm and a leg for fees.. Like an advocate who actually gave a damn. I had to stop going to the Phx VA because I had an allergic reaction to all the random 'experimental' drugs they were trying to cure my PTSD with... After 8 hours of sitting in the ER waiting room there, without even being so much as triaged, the triage nurse called me crazy 3 times in the same sentence. I had to walk out of there before I caused a scene.

Erin Wendlandt
Erin Wendlandt

your not alone Heath, how about $30,000 bill? yeah the VA is awesome

Ashleigh Hammerel
Ashleigh Hammerel

That is absolutely heartbreaking. There is absolutely no reason that any Veteran should be 'neglected' or 'delayed' on healthcare treatment or mental health treatment after serving this country. Period! The VA needs to get it together.

Heath Clouse
Heath Clouse

Try getting billed 4,000 dollars for appointments that were cancelled through the mail, and never rescheduled. I was supposedly getting 'free' treatment because I was unemployed at the time too. Gotta love it. Just realized it's on my credit report yesterday. This is all after they denied my disability due to 'lack of proof.' There's a freakin' news article on the event that happened.. Nope, not enough proof.

Rachel Rowe
Rachel Rowe

The VA system in Des Moines Iowa is 1000x better than the VA medical in Tucson

Panayiota Bertzikis
Panayiota Bertzikis

I work with one of the largest veteran-based organization in Arizona and am a veteran myself. Dealing with the Phoenix VA hospital director as my role with my agency and also as a veteran has been an absolute nightmare.

Alison Yoga
Alison Yoga

The patient advocate is who we go to if we have complaints. This is disturbing: "The first time that I contacted the patient advocate several months ago I made probably 20 calls in a 3 weeks period and I did not have 1 return phone call. Now I am trying again. Called 8/20 I called to speak to a Patient Advocate. They took my name and contact info down. Told me that they’ll call me right back since they were with a patient. I called back and left messages/told who picked up to call me back on 8/23/2012 8/27/2012 8/28/2012 Still have not had my phone call returned. Hope this blog makes them call me." fixthephoenixva.wordpress.com/2012/08/

Maria Tolis
Maria Tolis

Cara Garcia, she used to be the woman veteran program manager told veterans that they are worthless and that they enlisted because they were too stupid for college. After complaints they transferred her instead of firing her. She probably still working there.

Brianna Guzman
Brianna Guzman

I know of Vietnam era veteran that was escorted out by vA police because he requested to see the hospital director.

Erin Wendlandt
Erin Wendlandt

I agree, this is sad but in no way does it come as a surprise. The VA is a major stressor in every Veteran life.

jimstaro
jimstaro

The VA is the responsibility of those served, through their representatives hired to work for them! Reality! This VA and the whole Executive Branch are taking on what has been ignored, they don't control the people served purse but do have the ability to find ways to help, still not enough:

"12 years also is a long time. We now have a lifetime responsibility
to a generation of service members, veterans and their families." Dr. Jonathan Woodson 11 Sep. 2013: 'With 9/11 Came Lifetime Responsibility' {two tax cuts, especially for the wealthy, came with these two recent unpaid for wars, nor the long term results of, DeJa-Vu all over again of previous decades and wars of! Ignore the many issues from those who serve, by those served, no need to fund!}

"If military action is worth our troops’ blood, it should be worth
our treasure, too" "not just in the abstract, but in the form of a
specific ante by every American." -Andrew Rosenthal 10 Feb. 2013

TX-19 Congressional Candidate Neal Marchbanks - Veteran: 28 March 2014 - "Congress
controls the budget for the VA and it is the fault of Congress that the
VA does not have enough employees and that the facilities are too
small."

USN All Shore GMG3  '67-'71 Vietnam In Country '70-'71

jonnyquest
jonnyquest topcommenter

9 comments. 9 people cared enough about this article to comment. No wonder they're killing themselves.

royalphoenix
royalphoenix

I have been using VA healthcare for 25 years. The new facility in Surprise is very nice. But I will say that being involved in the Camp Lejeune water contamination debacle is somewhat un-nerving. peace

valleynative
valleynative topcommenter

So wait a minute ... the federal government is no good at managing health care? 


eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

THE PROBLEM, strange as it may sound, is NOT ENOUGH MONEY. Which means understaffing. That is the problem. The Congressman needs to address the issue from that perspective. Trust me, VA employees are a very dedicated bunch. They want to give veterans the best service possible.

shadeaux
shadeaux

If the OIG finds areas that need to be improved,(Begin bullshit here) we will swiftly address them as our goal is to provide the best care possible to our Veterans," the statement says.

danzigsdaddy
danzigsdaddy topcommenter

@jonnyquest  how many people saw the article title, and still skipped past it? i think your comment is a hurtful thing to say................but hurtful because it is so goddam accurate. that has to be one of the best observations i have seen in a long long time. as a vet with PTSD, i thank you for pointing that out

ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

@eric.nelson745 You are partially right - Congress does what the majority of constituents want.  The Republicants want to cut the taxes for the wealthy (see their most recent budget).  The majority of the constiuents of Congress have not reached a point where they can overcome the Republicants.  When they do, taxes on the wealthy will increase and we will have the money to fund the VA and other vital services provided by the US Government.  One BIG problem is the ineffectual veterans' organizations in Arizona - VFW, American Legion, and AMVETS - they can toot their own horns, but when it comes to actually advocating on behalf of Veterans - they are more interested in cutting down our President than doing what's right by our Vets.  I'm a vet and I know!  The Veterans' organizations in Arizona could be doing a WHOLE lot more than they are - but quite a few of them are nothing more than private clubs trying to profit from the generous liquor laws set up to favor Veterans Clubs.  It's really disgusting when you actually find out what these Veterans' Groups are doing - which is JACK SHITE!


rod.denney
rod.denney

@ExpertShot @eric.nelson745  


I would strongly disagree with your assertion about the American Legion. I am the President of the Legion Riders in Phoenix and we have taken on many of the veteran causes. For example, in May we have a ride scheduled that will raise money for PTSD and soldiers best friend. 


I think in my opinion that we are doing everything within our ability to take care of the veterans and not setting at the bar ordering another round at the so called veteran club.

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@ExpertShot @eric.nelson745    Shot:   your rant on taxing the rich has nothing to do with this problem.  However, since you brought it up........

The "wealthy", to which you refer, are corporations and small business - not individuals.  Do you know that the USA has far and away the highest taxes on corporations?  Do you know that these onerous taxes are the number one reason corporations move their businesses and jobs to other countries?  Do you know that high taxes on small business retards business and jobs and subsequent tax revenue?


Do liberals ever think before they spew?     

ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

@rod.denney @ExpertShot@eric.nelson745

I want you to recall what I typed above "
but quite a few of them are nothing more than private clubs trying to profit from the generous liquor laws set up to favor Veterans Clubs."   Does that mean all?  No.  It doesn't.  Perhaps if you read a little closer next time you'll not have to respond in such a manner - making it seem like I meant all Posts was not honest.  Would you say that EVERY American Legion Post in Arizona is running stictly according to their bylaws (especially those bylaws designed to keep the Post members and civilian Clubhouse managers from cheating)?

I am a member of one of the American Legion posts which is one of the honest ones - They post their income and balance sheets on the bulliten board, they have office space dedicated for their Veteran Service Officer and I think I've whooped you at pool a number of times there - Post 29 in Glendale.  I KNOW they're doing the right thing because I see it.  

However, I'm also a member at other Posts where they keep the book secret, don't spend a dime on Veterans programs and the monies from the operations of the Clubhouses have gone to pay the mortages for the Managers, their families and the Old Guard vets who run interference for them with the new members.  Perhaps you don't know about those Posts here in the Phoenix area.  I do.  I've been threatened with violence to try to prevent me from exposing their fraud.

Rod, when was the last time you got money from your Post to cover the up-front costs to put on one of those runs?  


fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@ExpertShot @fishingblues @eric.nelson745  


You're kidding right?  Is this where you get your ideas, from a French socialist?

Anytime Klugman (our own loud-mouthed socialist) recommends someone, don't waste your time.  

davephx
davephx

@fishingblues @ExpertShot @eric.nelson745  

Obama agrees with Republicans about reducing corporate tax rates but also closing the huge loopholes they enjoy.   While the stated rate is highest except for Japan the effective corporate tax rate actually paid is very low 

For individuals even with the recent slight increase for over $450,000/$250,000 individual rates are still among the lowest in the world and no VAT tax like in most of Europe.

For decades we had a 70% top Federal rate and the economy did very well until the Tax Reform Act of 1986.   Trickle down theory has been a total failure.  I was a tax supervisor for a than "Big 8" CPA firm and it was great to have earned income of $52,000 since at that level the rate was flat at 50% federal vs up to 70% on unearned income.


I am for lower rates but reducing all the deductions. However, every "loophole" or deduction has a mass of high paid lobbyists to fight against whoever's tax benefit that is threatened.


Now Trending

Phoenix Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...