Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

July 12, 2014

Parents: VA failed their children

WASHINGTON — Parents of military veterans who took their own lives after surviving combat told a congressional panel on Thursday how not to prevent suicide:

n Turn away a veteran of some 400 combat missions in Iraq because he’s no longer active in the National Guard.

n Then turn him away because he was previously in the Guard and refer him to a military facility where he’s promptly referred back to the VA.

n Now tell him to wait for a postcard with his appointment time.

* Either don’t send that postcard, or send it to the wrong address.

n Refuse to refer him outside the Veterans Affairs health-care system.

n When he finally does get his first VA date with a psychiatrist, have that doctor inform him that he’s retiring and won’t be able to see him a second time. Emphasize that he will, however, be seen by another doctor — just as soon as one becomes available.

n Never do get back in touch, and let him run up considerable debt getting what help he can in the private sector.

n And, finally, watch that veteran sprawled on the floor, crying in the corner of a VA hospital where he’s gone while having flashbacks and begging to be admitted. Refuse to see him yet again, but assure him he’s free to stick around until he feels well enough to drive himself home.

After all that, Daniel Somers committed suicide last summer, his parents tearfully testified before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on Thursday. Their son was 23.

Sitting close together, Harold and Jean Somers took turns reading their statement, peering through almost matching wire-rimmed glasses. A few times, he finished her sentence when she started to cry. Once, she did the same for him.

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