A tragic story out of New York has combined two of the more troubling trends plaguing our nation’s veterans. The first is the epidemic of veteran suicides. The second, and equally abhorrent, is the health care provided by the Veteran’s Administration.
[Scroll Down for Video]
On August 21, a 76 year old veteran committed suicide in the parking lot of the Northport VA Medical center on Long Island.
Peter A. Kaisen shot himself in the hospital’s parking lot. Sources at the hospital have acknowledged that Kaisen was disgruntled after being denied care. Kaisen was reportedly seeking mental health treatment in the VA’s emergency room.
“Someone dropped the ball,” an anonymous worker told reporters. “They should not have turned him away.”
An official spokesman for the hospital said in a statement that there “was no indication that [Kaisen] presented to the E.R. prior to the incident.”
Yet the very next sentence seems to contradict that: “He went to the E.R. and was denied service. And then he went to his car and shot himself.”
Kaisen’s death is the latest embarrassment for the VA system. Since 2014, the VA has been plagued with reports of slow service, lengthy wait times for access to health care, and even lax record keeping—a problem that declared many veterans as deceased and cut them off from their care completely.
Yet it is his suicide that seems to have made the most noticeable impact. United States active duty and veteran suicides are at epidemic levels. Our nation loses an average of 22 service men and women every day.
While Kaisen’s death is clearly a tragedy, many are heralding this as a wake-up call for the country. It is time for a reform of the VA system, and it is time to get veterans the mental health services they need to survive.