Saturday, August 24, 2013

After veteran Daniel Somers’s suicide, his family has a new mission

The problem isn't just that they are committing suicide. The problem is they are still committing suicide after a decade of promises from government officials things would change.
After veteran Daniel Somers’s suicide, his family has a new mission: Improve VA services
Washington Post
By Steve Vogel
Published: August 23

Shortly before his death on June 10, Army veteran Daniel Somers wrote a note for his family, asking his wife, Angel, to share it as she saw fit.

“I am left with basically nothing,” he typed on his laptop at their Phoenix townhouse. “Too trapped in a war to be at peace, too damaged to be at war.”

His service in Iraq, including multiple combat missions as a turret gunner, left him with severe post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. But the government, he wrote, had “turned around and abandoned me.”

Somers felt frustrated in his efforts to get mental health and medical care from the Department of Veterans Affairs. An antiquated scheduling system at the Phoenix medical center left him waiting, often in vain, for a postcard with the date of his next mental health appointment.

And he was caught in VA’s notorious disability claims backlog, which at its peak in March included more than 900,000 compensation requests from veterans, two-thirds of them waiting for more than 125 days. When Somers died, his case seeking full disability for his PTSD had been awaiting resolution for 20 months.

“Is it any wonder then that the latest figures show 22 veterans killing themselves each day?” Somers asked in his note.
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