I wish I could say it was the first time this has ever happened. But it’s not. More times that I would like to admit we’ve received phone calls from family members of veterans who have committed suicide due to the stress and mental disorders they are experiencing.
The VA’s failure to grant their claims in a timely fashion and the runaround they receive at the VA only amplifies the mental trauma they are experiencing, leading to more severe feelings of hopelessness.
I recently received a letter from a veteran and he said: “I’m not a whiner; I’m begging you for help and benefits. I’m in suicide watch and nowhere to turn next to homelessness.” The veteran went on to explain the difficulties he has experienced in receiving proper care at the VA and how he has felt totally violated by the things that have happened to him there.
Shortly after receiving this letter I received a telephone call from his ex-wife. Although they had been divorced for years, she was the only family that he had. She informed me that he had committed suicide.
We are deeply saddened to hear this news but also frustrated that the VA has such a backlog that we cannot see claims move through the process with any degree of predictability or efficiency.
It is time that the VA takes efforts to prioritize those claims of veterans that are suffering from mental disabilities. The continued delays and the apparent runaround that veterans get only fuels the sense of despair and hopelessness that veterans with PTSD and other mental disabilities suffer from.
As a veterans’ disability lawyer, I know how challenging it can be for these veterans to face VA’s repeated denials of their claims. When I hear these suicides I am not surprised that veterans truly believe the mantra, deny, deny until you die, as being the VA’s governing motto.
Although that may not be technically true, in practice it seems to veterans that the VA would rather drag their claim out than pay them, hoping they will die before the claim is resolved. And in this case, for our client who recently committed suicide, the VA did deny, deny until he died.
Therefore, as a veterans disability attorney I implore the VA in the incoming administration of President Donald Trump to take action to provide more immediate and effective care for veterans, especially those suffering from mental disabilities.