Because Veteran Families Serve Just Like the Soldier
Since the beginning of the Stop Soldier Suicide era, the number 22 has been synonomous with the heartbreak and sadness. From our point of view, what happens after a veteran suicide doesn’t get enough attention. That’s why Once a Soldier was founded.
Veteran families of soldier suicide tells us that, after a suicide, that the actual suicide becomes the least of their problems. Money and the business of death become their enemy.
The Silver Lining Project
Financial Aid Directly Applied to Their Funeral Expenses
Veterans who have fallen through the ever-widening gaps of the failing VA end up as Once a Soldier families. Many veterans transition to civilian life with very little bumps. Some try to live life with PTSD and it gets the best of them. Those are our families and their life is not easy. Neither is their death.
The chart below shows the average costs of a funeral. There’s a misconception that that VA pays for a veterans’ funeral costs. Not true. Our veteran families are living paycheck to paycheck and to suddenly pay thousands of dollars for a flight or for a funeral home is simply not possible.
PTSD is the Deadly Gift that Keeps on Giving
A traumtic incident can occur out of nowhere. Driving to the store for a coffee can end up with a tragic accident. PTSD can come with it. Family members can and do find their dead veterans. Imagine walking into the bathroom and seeing that. Of course it’s hard for anyone to forget and move on. We know that every member of our families deal with PTSD-related issues every minute of every day.
From the beginning of modern day warfare, PTSD packed along in every American war. Using different names such as “shell shock”, PTSD was only recognized as a distinct disorder in the 1980’s. In earlier wars such as World War II, 37% of soldiers who saw direct combat were discharged for psychiatric reasons and 24% of soldiers who saw direct combat in the Korean War were discharged for psychiatric reasons. That’s 1 out of 4 men, and for us, that’s 25% of their families, too. Veteran families of soldier suicide pay that same price.
Soldier Suicide Gets Some Primetime Exposure
I’d like to thank Ken Amaro from First Coast News for doing a story on Once a Soldier. FCN enjoys helping veterans in the area and this was a great chance for us to get some serious local exposure. As a young nonprofit, and one that’s built from the digital ground up, credibility is one of our early year goals. I feel we’ve crossed some major milestones and are getting our feet solidly under us in that area. Ken answering my call is a great step up for us, and he will always be one of our Silver Linings.
By way of a story behind the story, I filled out Ken’s online intake form that asked for a brief description of the story. It wasn’t thirty minutes after I submitted it that he called and we set an appointment. Even more amazing, he came out to me and we shot the interview in an hour.
During that hour, Ken asked very good questions and allowed me to inform him about our mission, the need that we face, and how I found this cause. To answer that for you, it was a combination of a few things. First, I have a co-worker, Mallory, who was a young newlywed Navy bride. Her husband, a helicopter pilot, was deployed for 8 months. 8 months! It was then that I realized that the family serves just like the soldier does.
Second, a friend of mine on Facebook took up the 22 in 22 challenge that brought the issue to my attention. Finally, the Google ad grant allows those nonprofits who qualify a very generous monthly ad budget. Taking advantage of that to build this nonprofit, along with the emotional engagement, makes this a pleasure.
Ken Amaro also gave me a link to my site from his site. This is important for SEO for the nonprofit, as well. I’d like to ge more, and we will, but this is a good start.
On the downside, I don’t know if the story really captured what we do in the clearest manner. I know that the mission is simple, and Ken did a great job communicating that. I only watched it once, so I don’t want to make too much of any little off center part of his story. (for example, we’re a Ponte Vedra nonprofit, not a Jacksonville one.) He did a great job and I am thankful to him and his cameraman for doing such a professional job.
Click here to see the video that aired today.
Here’s is the transcript of their story found online:
Jacksonville nonprofit plans to help families of veterans who committed suicide
A 2013 study by the Department of Veteran Affairs found what some are calling the unimaginable. It revealed as many as 22 veterans commit suicide each day.
Author: Kenneth Amaro
Published: 5:05 PM EDT October 15, 2018
Updated: 7:21 PM EDT October 15, 2018
JACKSONVILLE, Fl — A 2013 study by the Department of Veteran Affairs found what some are calling the unimaginable. It revealed as many as 22 veterans commit suicide each day.
“You can’t even imagine it,” said David Barbush, “That’s correct. Twenty-two a day.”
Barbush, a social media marketing executive, said this public health issue has broader ramifications.
“That’s 22 families and they’re left with a mess to clean up financially and emotionally,” he said.
Inspired by a co-worker in 2017, Barbush created Once A Solider. It is a nonprofit to help those families.
“It is a heartbreaking event. I cry every time when I talk with them there’s a need out there,” said Barbush.
The VA’s maximum allowed burial benefits for the families of these veterans is $2000, not enough at times to help those left behind.
“It is a sad story in the best of circumstance they will get $1000 – $2000 for funeral benefits,” said Barbush.
He said he is not blaming the VA nor Congress, he is just helping families.
“We are going to do what we can one family at a time,” he said.
In January 2019, Once A Soldier will give the family of Cedrick Taylor of Connecticut $1000. In February, the nonprofit will provide help the family of Jerad Johns of South Carolina.
“We’re going to get one family every month,” he said, “That is my goal for 2019.”
Barbush was moved by an email he received from the mother of Cedrick Taylor. She simply said thank you for your help.
Barbush said Once A Solider is the silver lining for those military families coping with the darkness of suicide.
“Nonprofits have a way of getting things done when government cannot and that’s what this is getting things done,” he said.
The nonprofit has a major fundraiser planned for December. To learn more about Once A Soldier click on the link below:
Soldier suicide is a national disgrace. To highlight the tragic circumstances at many VA facilities across the county, vets are killing themselves in VA parking lots as a last protest statement.
Veteran suicide at a VA hospital parking lot breaks the hearts of everyone involved, and the trend is on the rise. I spoke about this trend of veteran suicide with Mike Fitzgerald, a reporter from the Riverfront Times in St. Louis, months ago. Thankfully, Mr. Fitzgerald was able to find me through the website here, and reached out. We spoke at length about this new protest movement, and I am thankful that he wrote this article. I’ve copied the full text of it below with his permission. Of course, the memory and protest of Mr. Crews will not go in vain to us as long as Once a Soldier can continue to raise money to create Silver Linings for the veteran families left behind. If you’d like to donate, any amount is greatly appreciated.
Phillip Crews Killed Himself in a VA Waiting Room, a ‘Parking Lot Suicide’
by Mike Fitzgerald October 10, 2018
Phillip H. Crews spent his last moments of life in a place he knew well: a room on the first floor of the sprawling John Cochran VA Hospital at 915 North Grand Avenue, just north of downtown St. Louis.
The hospital’s first-floor waiting room is officially titled “the Ambassador’s Suite.” A gently sloping ramp leads upward from the south visitor parking lot through sliding doors to the suite, which can accommodate dozens of patients and visitors at a time.
Crews, 62, a Marine Corps veteran who had served during the waning days of the Vietnam War, had been a frequent visitor to the John Cochran VA hospital for many years.
A self-employed handyman from the city’s south side, Crews suffered from severe stomach pains that eluded a medical diagnosis. VA doctors prescribed Crews powerful opioid painkillers, to which he became addicted in his later years, according to his family and friends.
As his stomach pains worsened with no end in sight, Crews grew increasingly frustrated with the hospital, says his nephew, Tim Harrison, of Herculaneum.
“He just got worse and worse,” Harrison says. “And then in the last three to four months he looked really, really bad.”
Crews earned a precarious living as a handyman and from occasional work rehabbing houses. His financial situation deteriorated in his last years of life as his health declined. The bank that held his mortgage sought to take possession of his home, while Crews found it increasingly difficult to make ends meet on the $1,200 he earned each month from Social Security.
In late March, Crews told his nephew he was going to kill himself. “He said, ‘Tim, I can’t take it no more,'” Harrison recalls.
Harrison asked his uncle if he was serious about taking his own life.
Yes, Crews replied.
“When I do it, I’m going to do it at the VA because these are the guys who failed me,” Harrison recalls his uncle saying.
Crews made his final visit to the hospital in the pre-dawn hours of March 26, 2018.
He left his modest house at 4472 Beck Avenue and drove his 1996 maroon-colored Buick Regal sedan the five miles north to the hospital.
It was just after 4 a.m. when Crews parked the Buick and walked the last few hundred feet into the Ambassador’s Suite.
In his right hand he held a pistol. All six chambers were loaded.
When he entered the Ambassador’s Suite, it was empty. He lowered his body onto a couch near the entrance.
Crews inserted the barrel of the gun, a Herman Weihrauch .38-caliber Special revolver with black polymer grip, into his mouth. The time was 4:19 a.m., according to security cameras.
Crews angled the barrel upward so that it touched the roof of his mouth. Then he squeezed the trigger. The bullet exploded out the left side of his skull, according to the St. Louis medical examiner’s report.
Apparently no one inside the hospital heard Crews’ gun go off. More than an hour elapsed before a man walked into the Ambassador’s Suite to buy a soft drink from one of its vending machines. There the man “observed a white male subject seated on the couch, unconscious, and bleeding from the head,” according to an incident report prepared by a St. Louis police officer.
The man ran into the nearby emergency room and alerted staff to the situation. Crews was rushed to the emergency room on-site.
But it was too late. A VA physician pronounced Crews dead at 5:33 a.m., according to the police report.
Phillip Crews’ family still treasures this portrait. – COURTESY OF SHERRY CREWS HARVEL
Continue Reading the Riverfront Times Soldier Suicide Article
An estimated twenty military veterans take their lives each day in the United States. But Crews’ decision to end his life at the VA hospital put him in a smaller subset of those deaths, that of veterans committing suicide at VA facilities or on public grounds. The phenomenon even has a name: parking lot suicides.
From October 2017 to June 2018, fifteen on-campus suicides occurred at VA facilities nationwide, according to figures released to the Riverfront Times by the VA headquarters in Washington.
The reasons for the phenomenon range from veterans protesting poor and long-delayed treatment to their desire to spare family members the shock of discovering their corpses.
The phenomenon of parking lot suicides gained the attention of Dr. David Shulkin, who, in early 2017, was still serving as the VA secretary. He described these suicides as part of a growing, if tragic, trend.
“As some of you may know, veterans tend to come to a VA — either drive a car or come to the VA — and actually commit suicide on our property,” Shulkin said in a speech at Georgetown University. “There are a number of reasons, not all of which I completely understand, but one of them being they don’t want their families to have to discover them.”
These veterans know that “if they’re discovered at a VA, that we will handle it in an appropriate way and take care of them,” including the handling of paperwork for military burials and benefits for survivors, Shulkin said.
Shulkin made the reduction of veteran suicides his top clinical priority when he took the VA’s reins. At the time, he said he didn’t know how many parking lot suicides had occurred at VA facilities. “But every day I am notified of more and more of these that happen. So we just have to do more, we have to do better, we have to innovate,” Shulkin said.
On March 28, 2018, two days after Crews’ suicide, Shulkin was fired by President Donald Trump as part of a dispute over the privatization of VA health care.
For David Barbush, who runs a nonprofit that raises money to help family members of veterans who commit suicide, the motivation behind these parking lot suicides makes a certain kind of sense. “They obviously want to make a statement, a political statement,” he says.
But committing suicide at a VA hospital can also signal another message.
“It’s a cry for help,” Barbush says. “And they don’t want their families to clean up the mess, so to speak.”
Although the problem of parking lot suicides was an issue of special concern for former VA director Shulkin, the VA does not keep comprehensive figures on suicides at agency facilities nationwide, according Gina Jackson, an agency spokeswoman.
The agency provided the tally of fifteen suicides in nine months at the Riverfront Times’ request, but offered little additional information.
“That information is available at each individual facility, but is not something we have compiled (other than what we have provided to you),” Jackson wrote in an email in August.
The Riverfront Times reached out repeatedly to the VA to determine how the agency had arrived at its figures, as well as to determine the dates and locations of each veteran suicide. The agency, however, declined to provide the information.
“Due to the low total number of on-campus suicides, we are unable to provide further detail as doing so could jeopardize patient privacy,” Curt Cashour, press secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs, wrote.
News accounts, however, abound of VA patients taking their lives at VA facilities or other public property over the past two years. These cases include:
• An unidentified 76-year-old Navy veteran who killed himself in August 2016 in the parking lot of the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Long Island, New York, where he had been a patient.
• Peter A. Kaisen, of Islip, Long Island, a former police officer, died after he shot himself at the Long Island VA center. The veteran had reportedly been frustrated that he was unable to see an emergency-room physician for reasons related to his mental health.
• In November 2016, the body of John Toombs, a former Army sergeant and Afghanistan veteran, was discovered in a vacant building on the campus of the Alvin C. York VA Medical Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Toombs, who hanged himself, left behind a video in which he stated, “Earlier today, I was discharged for trivial reasons. They knew the extent of my problems. When I asked for help, they opened up a Pandora’s box inside of me and kicked me out the door.”
• In February 2017, the body of 63-year-old Navy veteran Paul Shuping was found in the parking garage of the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center in North Carolina, six days after he took his own life. Police announced that Shuping had used a .22-caliber rifle to kill himself inside a parked car.
• In March 2017, Hank Brandon Lee, 35, a former U.S. Marine lance corporal who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, fatally overdosed on fentanyl while under lockdown at the Department of Veterans Affairs psychiatric facility in Brockton, Massachusetts.
Fitting the pattern, but not happening on site, in June 2018, an Air Force veteran upset with the VA set himself on fire outside the Georgia state capitol in Atlanta. He died soon afterward. “He was strapped with some homemade incendiary devices, some firecrackers and doused himself with some kind of flammable liquid and attempted to set himself on fire,” an Atlanta fire department captain told reporters.
A major aspect to veterans’ on-campus suicides is the fact their health is deteriorating, says Barbush, who runs the nonprofit website to help survivors of veteran suicide.
“Whether it’s physical, emotional or spiritual, they’re convinced they’re done,” Barbush says. “So this is their last kind of service to their country. And that breaks my heart.
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY EVAN SULT; PHOTOS BY TOM HELLAUER
PHOTO OF MR. CREWS COURTESY OF SHERRY CREWS HARVEL
© 2018 Riverfront Times
Round-up of Recent Soldier Suicide New Stories
Once a Soldier compiles recent news stories about soldier suicide in an effort to keep you posted and keep ourselves as current as possible. This post will offer links and excerpts from the most current reports. Here is your digest of soldier suicide news stories making the press.
Update for Monday, July 2, 2018
July 2, 2018
Heads up: I have not listened to the podcast, so there may be some inappropriate language.
Something different: a podcast from Veterans Nation. Listen as Army Ranger Johns Hopkins and UNC grad Nick Black joins the Veterans Nation to talk about Stopping Soldier Suicide, embracing failure, and awesome fatherly wisdom. Hosts Tori and Matt Eversmann (1SG, US Army, retired) discuss using the art of disruption to beat the Veterans Predicament. They are dedicated to introducing disruptors from all around the world to anyone stuck in transition hell, otherwise known as The Veterans Predicament.
June 23, 2018
Hundreds join Walk with Warriors run to bring awareness to veteran suicide rate.
ONALASKA, Wis. (WKBT) — – Twenty-two veterans die from suicide every day, and community members are raising awareness.
The La Crosse YMCA hosted its annual Walk with Warriors run on Saturday to encourage veterans and community members to come together.
The event not only brings awareness to an alarming statistic, but event organizers said it encourages struggling veterans to talk to someone.
Read the original post here. There’s also news story video.
June 23, 2018
New VA report shows bleak numbers on veteran suicide, but experts say help on the way
New federal data shows no improvement in the number of active service members, Guard or Reserve members and veterans who died by suicide in 2015. It found an average 20.6 died by suicide each day that year. Most of those, about two-thirds, used a firearm. The new study reported that the numbers did not change between 2014 and 2015.
The number of civilian suicides is greater, at 97 per day, but veterans’ rate is disproportionately high considering they only make up 7 percent of the U.S. population, according to Pew Research Center.
Advocates and health providers in the Lowcountry say the news is frustrating, but improvements are on the way.
Read the original post here.
June 23, 2018
Safetalk aims to open conversation on veteran suicide, prevention
LYMAN — Patrick Maloney was the type of guy who could make you laugh, his mother said.
“To date, he was the funniest person I’d ever met,” said Lauri Maloney. “He was not afraid to make himself look like an idiot (for a laugh).”
The laughter went silent on Dec. 1, 2013 when Patrick, 32, and a U.S. Navy veteran, took his life. It has been a difficult five years for his family.
“I have functioned, but this is the first year I’ve had more joy than not,” Lauri said from the kitchen of the Lyman home she shares with her husband, Jeff Ladebush, earlier this week.
At the time of his discharge and the years that followed, Patrick was troubled at times, but Maloney said she saw no signs that would lead her to think he was contemplating suicide.
Read the original post here.
Sunday June 3, 2018
Veteran Suicide Rates are Increasing
Susan Quinn, Ricochet
Disclaimer: Once a Solider has previously reported all the cited research reports contain within this article, namely the landmark VA report of 2017.
Our veterans are dying in increasing numbers—at their own hands. I was moved to explore this topic thanks to Nicole Fisher of The Federalist’s recent article. She quoted a Department of Veteran Affairs study published in September 2017:More than 20 veterans commit suicide each day, a number, on average, 22 times greater than the civilian population. In fact, veterans’ suicides account for 18-20 percent of suicide deaths in the country, while they make up only about 8.5 percent of the adult population.
See the full article here.
Local veteran marches 22 miles for veteran suicide awareness
Abby Lutz, ABC 57News, South Ben, IN
Memorial Day is a day to remember those who gave the greatest sacrifice while serving their country, but for one local veteran it’s also a day to bring awareness to the veteran suicide rate. “My biggest message is just for veterans to put their ego aside and go get help if they need help,” said Army Veteran Kyle Ingle.
It’s a message close to his heart after losing a best friend. Ingle walked 22 miles on Monday for his brother in arms, Adam Campbell, who took his own life exactly two years ago. “I met Adam, I mean I don’t know what grade it was,” said Ingle. “We’ve been together forever pretty much.” From classes to combat, the pair did it all growing up. They even had matching tattoos. “We both enlisted together while we were still in high school, then shipped off together,” said Ingle.
See the full article here.
Sunday May 27, 2018
Ending veteran suicide top priority for VA
Dawn Schabbing Daily Union May 21, 2018
Ending veteran suicide is the top priority for those at the Marion VA Healthcare System that serves the region, it was reported in a recent town hall meeting in Effingham for local military veterans.
A variety of program directors associated with the Marion Veterans Affairs Healthcare System gathered with local military veterans to share information and answer their questions about their care.
Program directors in several areas within the healthcare system drew an estimated 175 veterans at the Effingham Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1769, which is an increase from 10 at last year’s meeting, said Jo-Ann Ginsberg, Marion Medical Center director with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
See the full article here.
VA’s Caregiver Program Still Dropping Veterans With Disabilities
May 21, 20181:26 PM ET
In the early days of the Iraq War, troops were riding around in Humvees with almost no armor on them. There was a scandal about it, and within a few years the trucks got up-armored with thick steel plates, which solved one problem but created another.
“Some genius thought about up-armoring. Good! But they didn’t do anything with the brake systems,” says George Wilmot, who was riding an armored Humvee in 2009, leaving a hilltop base in Mosul.
“We took some small arms fire … my driver took us off a cliff,” says Wilmot.
See the full article here.
Sunday May 20, 2018
Early deployment tied to increased suicide risk for soldiers
(Reuters Health) – When soldiers have their first deployment within their first year of service, they may be twice as likely to attempt suicide during or after their second deployment, a U.S. study suggests.
Researchers focused on 593 U.S. Army soldiers who had experienced two deployments within two years of continuous military service and had attempted suicide.
While a quick deployment linked to a larger increase in the risk of attempted suicide, the study also found that a gap of six months or less between deployments was associated with a 60 percent higher risk.
See the full article here.
AMVETS PARTNERS WITH VA TO ADDRESS VETERAN SUICIDE CRISIS
Following a White House order providing more mental health assistance to veterans, the veterans service group has launched a hotline and more resources to connect those needing help.
According to Veterans Administration research, approximately 20 veterans commit suicide every day. Providing support to veterans at risk has been one challenge—one addressed earlier this year when President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order expanding mental-health services for veterans. Connecting veterans to those services can be another challenge, though, which the veterans service group AMVETS is trying to address through a new program.
See the full article here.
After 3 suicide attempts, Marine veteran turns life around and graduates from veterans court
NEW ALBANY, Ind. (WDRB) — A Marine Corps veteran from southern Indiana tried committing suicide three times before finally getting the help he desperately needed.
It was the darkest time in Brian Reidinger’s life. “Two overdoses and a car accident that I tried,” Reidinger said. “The overdoses didn’t work. I don’t know how. They should have … big time. And then on I-65, I drove into a median.” But those times were a stark difference from just years earlier when he proudly served in the United States Marine Corps. “I fell in love,” Reidinger said. “I was good at it. I succeeded in it.”
Within a year of joining, he was deployed to combat in Iraq. “I excelled in it. I was really good at it,” he said. “I was good under pressure. I was good at making decisions, I was good at protecting my marines, and they were good at protecting me.” After Reidinger got out of the Marines, he moved back home and felt lost.
See the full article here.
Suicide rates among these Oklahoma vets is the highest in the nation
CRESCENT — Hours before dawn on a March morning in 2015, Josh Holley woke to his worried mother knocking on his bedroom door.
Your brother’s downstairs in the bathroom, she told him. He’s sick, and he’s yelling.
When Josh found his younger brother, Jeffrey, a U.S. Army veteran who was discharged for medical reasons four months earlier, Jeffrey told him not to worry, he only had a stomach ache. Josh asked if he needed anything. Jeffrey said he didn’t, so Josh turned to walk back upstairs. But before he could leave, Jeffrey said something that caught Josh by surprise.
See the full article here.
Sunday May 12, 2018
In Nevada, another non-profit is using the 22 soldier suicide data point as inspiration for their name. Their mission is a little off that center, but from the Las Vegan Sun, here’s the link.
A synopsis is the story is that they’re new and they are looking to serve veterans, first responders and their family members in an effort to curb soldier suicide. As you know, of the 22 a day, approximately 14 are veterans over the age of 50.
What are its initiatives or goals? The current goal is to provide as much assistance, guidance and referral services as possible to those in crisis or on the verge of crisis. This can be through our service dog grants, emergency financial assistance, Veterans Affairs education, Adopt a Veteran’s Smile (AAVS) dental program, Brain Health Warriors neuro-feedback treatment, assistance with Veterans Affairs claims, and any other way we can help.
Second is from down under in Australia, where the Northern Daily Reader reports on a run to raise awareness of soldier suicide. The Tamworth Young Veterans are stepping it up with a 50-kilometer run. While it’s heartening to hear of the young crowd getting involved, it’s a bit sad that it’s an issue in other parts of the world. We wish them the best because we can’t run 50-kilometers. That’s approximately 20 miles.
Here’s what the event organizer Rebecca Linich said: “We want to build community awareness of the facts and statistics regarding veteran suicide, the impact of Post Traumatic Stress as they transition to civilian life and most importantly the loss of lives on military deployment,” Tamworth Young Veterans president Rebecca Linich said.
You can find that link here.
Finally, a news story from a Scranton, Pennsylvania TV station, WBRE/WYOU-TV, reports that one group is urging that the next head of the VA make soldier suicide prevention a priority. Bill Fisher of Vote Vets is working to get the next appointee of the VA to work for more money and more people. The big takeaway from this story is that veterans who are not connected to the VA have a suicide rate 40% higher than that of their VA-connected peers. While the VA may have many drawbacks and issues, it does make a difference for many.
General Dunford made the most interesting comment when he said that if he know as much about a veteran while they were alive as we knew about them after they died, we could help a lot more. Yes, we can. You can see their report here.
Once a Soldier is here to ease or erase the financial burden to families after a soldier suicide. Visit onceasoldier.org/donate to help.
Solider suicide isn’t what you think. The overwhelming majority – 14 out of 22 – are not committed by young kids who lose their nerve in battle. Or by an active duty lifer who just can’t deal one more day. These tragic events do happen every day, and that’s a real shame, but what soldier suicide really looks like is a white man, color doesn’t matter here, over the age of 50 who can’t stand the PTSD anymore, the VA visits that go nowhere, and a thousand other reasons I have no insight into. But what I do know now is that these suicides are happening in the parking lot of their VA and still no great leap forward. Mission not yet accomplished.
Once a Soldier knows that the Veterans Administration can’t keep up with the need. We are not here to fix or even understand what the problems or offer a solution. We are here because like so many others, we just can’t escape the hard reality of veteran soldier suicide. Our mission is to aid their families, but we now realize that that is just a small part of a bigger whole. We remain happy in our mission, but we have to face the facts of veteran soldier suicide.
In short, stop soldier suicide and stop doing it in the VA parking lot. It’s not working and it’s too sad to continue. That’s not an order, that’s a plea. I have no solution and can only ask. Up until today, I had no knowledge of these types of soldier suicide. Sad to say, the reasons that are listed as to why in one of the following stories actually makes sense. Twisted and sorrowful, but very practical.
Here’s a comment we received that prompted our discovery process into the VA suicides and that offers an insider’s view of the situation. I’ve edited it very slightly to better highlight what I think the author’s points are:
U** R****** on February 4, 2018 at 2:55 pm
Seen as an inside observer of the medical community and also as a VA patient.
1. Parking lot suicides are done for two reasons.
Veterans do not want their loved ones to find their bodies and know the VA will dispose of them. The other reason is that it is the final FU to a government which is so full of bureaucracy it has rendered itself useless. However, in all fairness, this trend has extended itself to the civilian sector as well for quite some time where medical care is a form of Russian Roulette. Some are lucky to escape without harm, others end up damaged or dead. The word is collateral damage in medical care.
2. Too Much Papework
Dropping the ball in delivering medical care to veterans and civilians is becoming the norm. Health care workers are undulated (sic) with so much paper work for documentation and rules they have to follow as guidelines for the delivery of each aspect of care, they are utilizing the time they used to spend of patient care to document each and every move they make. If a time and motion study was implemented it would amaze people to know that more then (sic) 90 per cent of their time is spend documenting and covering their asses. If you are a VA patient, the time you spend with your provide (sic) is less than a few minutes because the rest of what they provide is looking at the computer screen, charting.
3. Profits over People
The patient has been considered the “consumer” in the medical field for over 20 years, whereby in civilian sectors they are called consumers. The word alone indicates that the patient has been placed on the Back 40, because the definition of consumer is purchaser, buyer, customer, shopper and patron. This enforces everything we read and know about medical care, it is a profit making organization and nothing more. The VA is blatant about their desire to make profit at the cost of the veterans who rely on their care. There are more and more job descriptions placed on each healthcare worker, and when there is a hiring freeze, they delegate the empty slots between the health care workers left, to carry the load, which frustrates and stresses them out because of work overload. The VA figures their health care providers and workers can function doing the workload of those they did not replace. The workers who are left trying their best to do their jobs, end up leaving, or are so overworked, the ball in medical care is dropped. The bottom line: profit.
Inasmuch as the VA is trying to curtail the numbers of suicides of their veterans, the task is equivalent to the war on drugs. A waste of time and money because the war on drugs was lost a long time ago and cost the tax payers more money than the fight was worth. One can not prevent intentional suicide. Impossible. Each case is different and each person is different. What goes through the human mind when the person reaches the final stage of ending his/her life can not be controlled.
Thank you for your time,
(URs name is edited for privacy reasons. Although he posted this comment, I don’t want to use it as his content is being repurposed.)
Here’s more insight and stories from these VA parking lot suicides.
63-year-old Paul Shuping was found in the parking lot by Durham VA police. A six-year Navy vet, Mr. Shuping’s act was discovered six days after it was committed. Offered partial benefits, he was denied full benefits due to a paperwork error. On top of his PTSD and depression, that was the final straw. Read the rest of the news story here.
A 76-year-old veteran committed suicide on Sunday, August 23,2016, in the parking lot of the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Long Island, New York. Mr. Peter A. Kaisen “went to the E.R. and was denied service,” one of the people, who currently works at the hospital, said. “And then he went to his car and shot himself.” The rest of that New York Times article is here.
Mr. Kaisen’s was a big story that was heard around the country because at the time, it was considered shocking. “At the time” means as recent as a year and a half ago.
One last one:
Police say the 53-year-old veteran, Thomas Murphy, drove to the Phoenix VA regional office with a goodbye note and gun. Interestingly, a whistleblower at the VA, Brandon Coleman, has been put on leave, as of May 11, 2015, for trying to shed some light on the problems of at-risk vets. That news story is here.
Three reasons why vets are killing themselves in the VA parking lot and three stories of veteran soldier suicides that drive home the point. Also, they were all older white men who picked up a gun to solve the problems of PTSD, an overwhelmed VA system, and not enough benefits. There’s probably not an official tally of how many vets have killed themselves at a VA parking lot. There doesn’t need to be. One is enough to send the message. All of these and the message is clear: the message isn’t getting through.
Silver Lining Project: Soldier Suicide Video Memorial Page
Continuing our “silver lining” theme that is the core of what we do, we are excited to announce that our Memorial page will be called the Silver Linings Project – Video Memorials for Soldier Suicides. The goal of this page and the Silver Linings Project is to be a happy place where the good memories and brighter aspects of the soldier’s or veteran’s life and times can be saved and shared.
Much like Holocaust and World War II Museum’s Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive, our collection will not only be a place where history is preserved and accessible, but we hope to become more than the sum of our parts. While others sort our how to prevent war, prevent PTSD and the soldier and veteran suicides that come with it sometimes, the spread of terrorism and the care we take of our veterans, we will always focus on the families and their best interests.
How To Submit to the Silver Lining Project
Using your mobile device, record your best memory of your lost loved one. Maybe it was something they did on a vacation, night out or the first time you saw them as a soldier. Whatever it is, keep it short and simple so that we can make it easier to transfer it to our library and share it with others. A length of under a minute is a good rule of thumb. And remember, you don’t only have to do one. Becuase it’s short, and we know that memories can’t always follow an internet upload file limit, please feel free to contribute multiple short videos. We will be able to post them all and you will always to be able to find it.
Once you have shot your Silver Lining Project video, please e-mail it right from your phone to firstname.lastname@example.org. Google is our advertising partner and they offer great cloud storage we need. This isn’t an endorsement, but through their ad grant, we are able to reach out to more families and supporters than we could without them. We also want to make the project a success and most importantly, easy for you to do. Please let us know via the same email any issues you may have had or how we can make it easier for everyone to upload.
Once a Soldier is to financially aid the families of soldier suicide and veteran suicide. Besides the shock of losing a loved one, the financial burden now placed upon them can be a blow that we can help soften. Please donate and help us be the silver lining in their dark times.