Sign of a Broken System: Vet Commits Suicide on VA Grounds

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FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Is our current Veteran Affairs system broken?

It’s a question that has particular relevance when you consider the death of 53-year-old Thomas Murphy who took his own life in the parking lot of the VA headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona.

Murphy fatally shot himself to make a profound statement, that the VA wasn’t doing enough to help veterans at-risk of suicide.

“I don’t think there’s anything more symbolic than to complete suicide on VA grounds,” Brandon Coleman, a caretaker of veterans, told Fox 10.

“It’s an ultimate slap in the face to the VA, that something is wrong, to take the extra step to want to finish the act of suicide on VA property so that way they have to clean up the mess,” he continued.

Coleman believes that Murphy’s actions are further proof that the VA system is broken.

“I think he would want to speak with us about this, I think it was an ultimate show of disregard and just frustration with a broken system,” said Coleman.

What are your thoughts on the VA system?

{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Jeff Polaski August 14, 2017, 2:41 pm

    I thank my lucky stars that I have never had to resort to the VA. It’s a society that expects the most from citizen military, and then drop them like hotcakes when their usefulness is over. Corrupt, indifferent, lazy, self-serving, and all the other descriptors of today’s business, industry and service sectors in civilian life all come together and concentrate in the VA medical system.
    Those who say the American health care system is broken don’t have a clue as to how badly broken it is until they have to depend on the VA for their health and their very lives. It’s a national disgrace, and I don’t see how they are going to fix it without an entire set of new brooms. I am ashamed. Deep down ashamed.

  • Dan in Idaho January 31, 2017, 2:22 pm

    Use every resource like your political elected, as well as your state veterans rep. Keep records accurately, and if they refuse to make them available you can file a complaint. Many times problems with lack of follow-up appointments is the fault of the Dr’s staff and or the VA system.
    I started with the VFW, then to state rep council, and to the DAV. In my case my local DAV rep was replaced by a higher level regional person, who in my opinion, was so tight with the VA adjudication folks I was almost sabatoged. Thankfully I had the info and was advised that I did not need his sorry arse to attend the meeting. The result of that “appeal” hearing caught them by surprise and I was eventually paid back the 18month benefit I had lost.
    Be cautious as they will attempt to delay you for another 18 months, to investigate the new evidence. Do not sign anything!!!! Until you have achieved all that you needed, including percentage, and future health care evaluations. Any that have not happened will be dropped immediately when you sign the release. Get everything in writing, with names and dates, every day.
    Another thing is to never tell them anything, even in passing comment, that you dont want to come back and be used against you in a settlement or hearing, or heaven forbid, in court.
    The VA is definitely broken. Folks make up their own regulations, rules, and do have attitudes at the patient level and the management level is charged with saving money and getting bonuses.
    DO NOT LET THEM WIN!!! Good luck and do not give up.

  • Russ Abbey January 27, 2017, 11:34 am

    For all of you that are Vets. One thing I have not seen is any of you using is the free Advocates from DAV, Am Vets, American Legion, PVA or any of the Veterans groups. Also non of the comments have said the talked to their Federal Representatives or Senators. Try this route and see what happens now. 🙂 Believe me when I say that my Representative went over my records and brought in his own doctor (charged to the VA) to do an eval and was upset there was no record about one of the injections I had. When it was found that the VA was using inferior doctors for the Vets let me tell you they got a fire lit under their butts! You have to work the system Guys and Gals. If you don’t the VA will screw you in a heart beat. The hospital I go to now is about the best I have ever been at here in Virginia. Everyone is for the Vets! From Doctors to nurses on down to the custodians and maintenance workers.

  • Bullock January 27, 2017, 10:24 am

    I believe that the taxpayer could fund this. At a lower cost.
    Abolish the VA and zero out the budget.
    Give them the same insurance and access as Members of Congress at a minimum. It must be good if they exempted themselves from the ACA.
    VA worker sounded like he was sniveling about having a mess to clean up. What a POS. He didn’t live in Murphy’s Hell.

  • Marlin19004 September 9, 2016, 6:41 am

    I’m a proud Viet Nam combat vet. It took the VA 45 years to determine that I am 109% combat disabled. My permanent residence is just outside Phila PA, but I have been spending a great deal of time at the souther New Jersey shore. Last week I visited the VA clinic in Northfield NJ to get some basic blood work done. The clinic scanned my VA ID card and verified that I was indeed rated at 100%. They then stated we CAN NOT HELP YOU!! Why? Because I was registered at the Phila VA and not the Wilmington VA that they are part of. I’m 109% where ever I am, not just in Phila. The nurse practitioner who ran the place was very indignant and nasty in her conversation with me. An attitude that appears to be rampant in the VA system. I was told that for them to provide any help for me that I would first have to have my records transferred from the Phila VA to Northfield. Why must we continue to beg for services?

  • Sonia July 26, 2015, 7:18 pm

    I have been fighting for my benefits since 1990. Either I get denied from local and then my case gets lost no matter hard I tried. Finally in 2913 I had congressman Waxman help me, I did get award a small amount and I am the one who busted my butts to all medical records and respond with everything they throw at me and finally they sear remaining they have been withholding and it. I am the one who fought when no one would listen and I finally won But then in another letter they deem me INCOMPETENT since I kept filing and appealing. Do I think they treat us right hospitals mess up and then to protect their wrongdoings over the years they do everything to discredit the VET so they don’t have to pay or treat due to high medical bills due to lapse in proper care.

  • Charles Conway May 18, 2015, 10:27 pm

    The VA system has turned into a system purely designed to ensure that VA executives have a way to keep assigning themselves bonuses regardless of whether they were actually earned or not.

  • Oltick May 18, 2015, 6:41 pm

    I’m good. Very few complaints over the 15 years I’ve been receiving VA care. I’m 100% disabled and pretty much satisfied with the Spinal Chord Injury Unit I go to.

  • Tom May 18, 2015, 12:57 pm

    I’ve been in the VA System for 45 years. I was wounded 5 times in Vietnam. I wasn’t careless just an adrenaline junkie. Scout/Tunnel Rat 1st tour and UH1C Huey Gun Ship Door Gunner on my 2nd Tour.
    On the first I hit an Anti-Tank Mine in a M-113 ACAV. It Compression Fractured my whole spine, L-4 getting the worse of it. I was young and strong, but always had lingering back problems.
    October 26,2011 I was on strong Opiate Pain Medication and the VA cut me off. They’d only return my meds if I joined their new Pain Management Program & accept a steroid shot into my back. I’d had several from by private doctor “no bit deal”. The VA Pain Doctor was a reject from the private sector with a “horrible reputation and shot happy”. The VA hired him anyway.
    According to his post op notes, Even thought he was only an “Anesthesiologist” he was attempting to inject 120 mgs of a Steroid Cocktail under the L-4 bulging disc and into the nerve root.
    That is a massive dose, hospitals give 30mgs for pain control. When I was prepped he came up to me, I watched him take the syringe off the tray in plunge it into my lower back. It took maybe 2 seconds, not nearly enough time to Watch the Overhead Monitor to give the needle into the exact intended location. He thought he was “too good” to have to use a Monitor to guide his injection. HE MISSED, instead of the nerve root he hit the bulging L-4 dic, with an amount of that dosage combined with the hydrolic pressure of that large syringe…The L-4 exploded, into fragments. I didn’t feel it at the time due to the massive steroid and lidacain dose. In two weeks when the steroids wore off I woke up at 4:00am in “off the chart pain”.
    I called the VA and got the doctors Nurse, I explained the problems and she said she’d get back to me. My 6 every morning 60 mgs dose of Oxycontin was not even touching the increasing pain.
    She called back and said “the doctor says he is way too Overbooked to see me. She even denied my request to come to the VA and see “someone”. No that doctor didn’t want me coming in and EXPOSING what he had done out of sheer incompetence.
    I was in agony, then I lost control of everything from my waist down, then I became paralyzed. Oh, the pain was still there but my legs wouldn’t work. The VA told me to go my local hospital and get a Pain Shot.
    I finally got in to see a Neurosurgeon, barely able to use a walker. He did an MRI, and wanted to operate that evening but couldn’t get an open O.R. On December 9, 2011 he did the surgery the next morning. After I woke up he said “I’m sorry these type of injuries are called Caudal Equina Syndrome. Their serious and require “immediate” surgery. You’ve waited over 30 days, and I am afraid “the damages were so extensive and nerves also damaged to the extent that you will never walk again unassisted”. He added, your lower back inside looked like a Hand Grenade went off inside, it took me over 90 minutes longer than usual to find all the fragments and make sure I didn’t leave any behind.
    The VA had hired a totally incompetent Doctor that was in the process of closing his Private Practice. It was apparent at our first meeting he didn’t like working at the VA, and considered this Job beneath him.
    I struggled for 18 months but was finally able to STAND on my own. It was a slow painful process, nothing came easy. I finally got the ability to walk with a special AFO BRACE that held up my “Drop Foot” a waist brace due to my lower backs instability. and at first a WALKER, then Crutches, then with an AFO brace, a Waist brace, and a cane …I was able to walk, unstable but walking. Over the years of not giving up, NOT ACCEPTING THE ELECTRIC WHEEL CHAIR….I forced myself to Walk Again.
    My day starts with 100 mgs of Opiate Pain Medication just to get out of bed. My nights are spent enduring the horrible muscle spasms that seem to want to tear the muscles off the bone. Only Magnesium Capsules give me a break from that pain. Both Sciatic Nerves are affected too. I filed a Request for Additional Compensation to be added to my SMC. “Special Monthly Compensation”. The VA doesn’t offer any additional benefits unless you ask for them specifically…
    SMC is awarded to a Veteran who’s already has 100% for one injury and other disability awards totaling at least 60% which are unrelated to the original 100%. Currently they rate me at “40% for Crippling me for Life”. However I have 100% X 3 plus several small awards under 50%. The total 100% ratings are 350% not counting a Agent Orange progressing Heart Disease, or an increase of the 40% from Crippling me for Life. Before retiring in 2003 I had spent 10 years as a Cowboy / Rancher. I sold out and moved to a secluded area, in a National Forest off Lake Ouachita. Life was perfect, it was the retirement I EARNED by working thru the sometimes horrible pain from that ancient Combat Injury.
    The total incompetence of the VA and their hiring practice of finding out the DREDGES of the Medical World and hiring them. They even hire Nurses and Doctors who’ve lost their licenses to practice. The Veterans are the Guinea Pigs that they practice on. The VA spends a fortune for a real time monitor to prevent EXACTLY what happened to me. However the hire the worst doctors they can find.and the results are predictable and the number of crippled Veterans, made that way by the VA is growing. This happened in Little Rock Arkansas. The Hot Springs VA small Clinic was so horrible, they had to hire an ARMED GUARD to stand in the Lobby. Some veterans get upset when their misdiagnosed and suffer the consequences for the incompetency of the VA.
    I go to Mena, they people are nice, and very concerned about the welfare of their Veterans. Its a little longer drive but well worth it.
    I hired an incompetent Attorney who said he specialized in helping Veterans. He dicked around and missed the Deadline. My case who not be able to be tried in a Public Trial. I filed a Request for the VA to reconsider and raise my S.M.C.. They sent me to a private Doctor for evaluation and diagnoses. She examined me for 4 hours on two visits. She was part of a special Federal group called the “Veterans Examination and Evaluation Services”. She filed a 59 page report, at the heart of that report was a comment that read “these current spinal injuries are in no way connected to the earlier Combat Explosion Back injury sustained
    in June 13, 1967″. They are separate and not connected.”
    When the VA competed by Disability Rating …the short version was a Complaint by the Veterans Examination and Evaluation Services’. That the VA had failed to request their very precise Diagnoses and Examination all contained in their Report to the VA. The VA found out what the report findings were and intentionally failed to request the V.E.E.S. Report they previously ordered and include it in their current Disability Rating for additional VA benefits.

    The Letter to the Ratings Board stating that the VA had failed to request their Ordered Report of the V.E.E.S. Exam and Diagnose and lengthy report. No, they rated me without the evidence. Their Report for an increase in my already 100% Disability was just not considered and intentionally left out of the evidence to be considered by the Rating Review Board. The final Rating was so disturbing. inaccurate, and totally contradictory to Published Medical Opinions on Caudal Equina Syndrome. The VA was attempting to blame Diabetic Neurapathy as the cause for the L-4 exploding and crippling me. The sent me a Letter after I got the new Ratings and Disability Report and conclusion. The report was full of incorrect medical conclusions which they attempted to blame everything on my “perfectly controlled type II diabetes” My Blood Sugar is always in the normal range, without medication or insulin. All because of a Statement from the Neurosurgeon where he said that my Diabetes could impact and slow down the “Recovery Time”. From that the VA concluded that it was the Diabetic Neuropathey that I had around sometime in 2006. I’m an herbalist and treated successfully that neurapathy and cured it.
    The VA was grasping at straws, anything to divert the blame away from their incompetent VA doctor.
    That V.E.E.S. Report was never aquired or considered its findings to determin “accurately” the cause of my permanent inability to WALK and function as before the injection.
    Today I live the life of most Combat Veterans with PTSD, I divorced my 6th wife, and live secluded in the national forest just off Lake Ouachits. I don’t date, and its not from lack of eager opportunities. I’m attempting to One Last Time to make major repairs to my overly injuried body, once more at 67. I am attempting to repair by creating larger muscles to help carry the load. Bigger Musles to help support a long damaged spine, special vitamine C I make at home and is 10 times more absorbant than any captual by a factor of 10 times. I just had open heart surgery a year ago, another speed bump in my quest for returning to my Cowboy Body, and ability to do normal things…like Walk with dignity and hopefully stability in the near future.
    The VA sent me a letter stating their investigation showed that the VA or its employees had not in any way Harmed or Hurt me and there was no basis for my VA Claim of incompetence or “damages” that were found as a result of my “Diabetes Neurapathy”, Totally absurd and in no way a logical conclusion based on misinterpatation of a doctors off the cuff opinion without reading my Medical History.
    In concludion, they said they had no involvement in whatever happened that crippled me. However, they now furnish me all my braces, and they put the Online ones I ordered to absolute shamr, The VA makes extremely good medical grade Braces.
    They also gave me $20,000 to help purchase a more “cripple friendly” Vehicle. Then authorized a special Federal GRANT worth $75,000 to remodel my house to also make it more… “CRIPPLE FRIENDLY”.
    AND…quietly gave me an extra $1000 a month Special Monthly Compensation. What this means is “WE did nothing to HARM YOU”….but this is what you would have gotten had we actually “harmed you”. In fact this is a way to prevent costly Lawsuits. If I was to sue the VA, and my settlement did not add up to what the VA has already given me…then I would owe the VA the difference. This legal manuver comes with a HIGH RISK and could bankrupt me, loose all my current VA Didability benefits. Its now just not worth the RISK to sue them.
    This is my story…You Can Win Against the VA, but the “hoops” are huge and the costs very high. THE MESSAGE HERE IS THE DAMAGES CAUSED TO A VETERAN BY THE VA, ARE PROTECTED AGAINST YOU WINNING BY A SNARE WERE YOU POST YOUR WHOLE LIFE’S SECURITY … ON A ROLL OF THE DICE THAT HAS 100’S OF TRAPS THAT YOU ONLY HAVE TO TRIGGER ONE.
    THE POTENTIAL LOSS AND RISK OF COMPETE AND TOTAL FINANCIAL RUIN… MEANS I NOW AND FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE, I WILL START MY DAY WITH A SHOT GLASS FULL OF PAIN MEDS, HERBS, AND PRESCRIPTIOINS FOR NERVE DAMAGES. I SUFFER, AND I HAVE TO WEAR A WAIST BRACE FOR STABILITY.
    I’M GETTING $100,000 WORTH OF DAMAGES, PLUS ANOTHER $1000 ADDITIONAL PER MONTH. ALL ARE AD ADMISSION OF THEIR GUILT, A TOTAL COVERUP, BUT I GET FREE PAIN MEDICATION, AND EVERYTHING I NEED…BUT AN ADMISSION, AND APOLOGY FOR RUINNING MY LIFE, AND MY HARD WON GOLDEN RETIREMENT AT AGE 61 THE VA MADE ME INTO A CRIPPLE.
    BE CAREFUL, CHECK OUT THE NAME AND REPUTATION OF WHATEVER VA DOCTOR WORKS ON YOU. THEY CAN DO A WHOLE LOT OF HARM AND LEGALLY ARE ALL BUT “UNTOUCHABLE”.

  • VA Victor May 18, 2015, 11:56 am

    Your Government doesn’t give a damn about you!! They want you to go fight their wars!! They want you to fight in the wars that THEY create (and they won’t put their own son’s on the front line). Everything this Government does is essentially against it’s own people. The fact that things like this happen should show all exactly how little they actually give a sh1t about YOU!! But all these gung ho people want to sign up to be bad asses or go ‘fight for our freedoms’ but that’s all such a crock. We haven’t fought for out freedom since the war of 1812. The gov takes out sons at a very young age, breaks them, remakes them to be good little killer robots and to FOLLOW ORDERS!!! You think you live in a free country, but in reality, you’re NOT as free as you think you are, your government wants you to fight and die. They don’t give a DAMN about you AT ALL!!! Then you as the vet have all the blood on your hands, PTSD out the wazoo and they treat you vets like potential criminals. Wake the heII up.

  • Gary M. Saxon May 18, 2015, 8:41 am

    I was injured in 1976 in the USMC. Since going to the VA for pain/muscle relaxer pills 39 years, I have seen and had happen to me that shows the concern that the VA administration has for veterans. I have spent hours on hours trying to get help in ER, been wheelchair to my vehicle, put in and left there without getting any help, had it explained to me that there was a mandatory 3 hour wait after your appointment time, lost all benefits because I was scheduled an appointment in Salt Lake City but was living in south Georgia and I was told 2005/2006 that I would not be able to work again. I had put in for disability evaluation in 1995, I think, was told that there was nothing wrong with me. Is it any wonder why veterans are killing themselves? Let the sorry excuse for government leaders and their families have to use the VA for benefits and medical care. The national debt would surely decrease rapidly.

  • Johnny B Goode May 18, 2015, 8:25 am

    The VA system has been broken for a long time. My Grandfather and my Father do not use the VA hospital for routine care. Most veterans of their generation see the VA as a place for terminal care and poverty. If you can afford insurance don’t bother with the VA. I know a Korean war veteran who fought the VA for over 20 years to get 100 service connected status. He was a paraplegic Every time I have taken a loved one to the VA the care was substandard. I really don’t see how today’s veterans are surprised by the antics of the VA. The VA has been functioning in the same fashion for 50 years..

  • Bob May 18, 2015, 8:23 am

    While the onslaught of negative publicity about the VA continues, I continue to receive stellar service at McGuire Vet Center. I have utilized most of the clinics at the facility and have been hospitalized there yet I have very few complaints. I realize that every facility is different and there has been some publicity about McGuire, but I have nothing really negative to say. I hope that the various locations straighten out the problems and help the vets that need treatment.

    • John May 25, 2015, 2:52 pm

      McGuire is the hospital that messed up my so called routine back surgery. It is a teaching hospital and without going into a ton of details they royally screwed up my nerve in my back and the end result was numbness in my foot and leg and even worse back pain than before my surgery. The pain management clinic there is horrible and I have a number of mistakes made during my visits there. Glad you have had good results but I and many of my vet buddies have nightmare stories about McGuire.

  • Marlin19004 May 18, 2015, 7:40 am

    First, life is great! I’m a Viet Nam vet. It took me 40+ years to get my 100% rating, yet I was hurt in 1968. The VA is the latest government agency to become “patronage heaven”. A collection of lazy, incompetent, slackers that seem to not even care about veterans. In the Phila VA, one person an hour is scheduled to see a doc or healthcare worker, ONE an hour!! More often than not when you arrive at the VA you find your appointment has been cancelled and you were never notified. We now live in a country where the president has more interest and benefits for illegal aliens than for our veterans. Go ahead president Obama, bend over and kiss another’s Saudi princes ring! I was always proud to have been a combat veteran, now my country doesn’t remember our service, how sad. Vets are now killing themselves faster than criminal are being executed!

  • DB May 18, 2015, 5:42 am

    There are no issues with the VA. That’s what my brothers patient advocate at the VA kept telling me when I go home on leave and find bottles and bottles of narcotics, barbiturates,Etc… All prescribed by the VA. They (VA) did not want to deal with him so they (VA) would mail him (my brother) his refills and would cancel his appts. He would go to the VA ER for mental help since his psychologist kept canceling the appts. My brother would leave the ER after sitting there for 14 hours sometimes without doing more that triage. Long story short my brother was a combat vet who served in fallujah is 04. Even though he was a a grown adult and made his own choices. He committed suicide this last winter.

  • GySgt John Olsen May 18, 2015, 5:00 am

    I have the option of using TRICARE locally but I prefer to drive 55 miles to the Reno VA because I want to be witness to any problems. I have been in the VA system for 3 years now and have seen 1 doctor for a routine physical. I am not sick so I will find out if they help me when I need it. I got my blood pressure pills and lipitor free from TRICARE. The VA charges $16 per month for the same thing. Why do vets pay for prescriptions at the VA?
    10 years ago my wife and I both got walk-in free service at the VA and never paid for pills.
    I know why OBAMA!

    Semper FI

    • Stuart Edick May 18, 2015, 2:18 pm

      If condition isn’t service connected, and you’re not rated 50% or higher (as I recall], you have to pay. When I joined the military, I was given the free health care for life pitch. We know that was was a lie.

      • Gary May 18, 2015, 6:14 pm

        Can’t blame it on Obama, although I blame much of our problems on him. Copay has been going on since the GW days. Prescription cost is based on a means test (ability to pay). Some still get it at no charge.

      • Ronhart May 18, 2015, 10:22 pm

        Yeah. . . .I also got the free dental care for life pitch if I made it through retirement. I did but I’m paying for my dental care.

  • Michael May 18, 2015, 4:26 am

    The VA is reducing my rating from 100% down to 70% because they said they sent me some form that I didn’t fill out and send back to them. I never got the stupid form. Why would I knowingly not fill out a form if it’s going to cut my income by over half of what it was. Now I’m supposed to find new evidence to try and get my rating back to 100%.

    • Andrew N. May 21, 2015, 1:21 am

      Michael, I know your story well. I waited 2 years for my “rating exam”. They never called or sent me anything, and then said I missed my exam. Luckily, I had already involved my Congressman’s Office, and they knew that I would show for ANY appointment. My advice to you: GET YOUR CONGRESSMAN’S OFFICE INVOLVED. It changes EVERYTHING. And, right now Vets are the “flavor of the month” cause in Congress, so all the Representatives want positive “I helped a Vet story”. Call immediately.

  • DRAINO May 15, 2015, 8:37 pm

    BROKE doesn’t quite cover it. Corrupt is closer to accurate. This is very sad. As a vet, I fully understand his frustration. As a vet who has had veteran family members killed (yes, killed) due to the incompetence of the VA, I am appalled. Something serious needs to happen in this agency. Total overhaul. But it’s not the only one. Pick any government agency…..its corrupt…and FULL of fraud and waste. And this is the result of what all the corruption is doing to the American people. This poor man and his family. They are the victims. VA needs to be brought to justice.

    • Steve Crawford May 18, 2015, 1:05 pm

      I had my first and last experience with the VA Hospital. I had an appointment for an in service nose injuries. All I wanted was the better name of a nose drops to reduce my stuffed up nose. The doctor call me in, never said hello, looked up my (he apologized for not having on gloves) and said do not use AFRIN, walked out and was gone. All this took less than 5 minutes. The US Federal Representatives give almost what the Pentagon requested funds and a little more. But the VA STILL after many wars and military conflicts treat the Veterans like dirt. ALL the VA leaders and many, all the way down to intake clerks need to be fired. Put the VA under receivership via Mayo Clinic, John Hopkins or some other large medical institutions for at least one year. Reevaluate and slowly return the VA over to government control after the VA has greatly improved. The USA owe it to the military persons that return home injured. ALL US Representatives that are veterans should/must use the VA medical facilities WITHOUT using their titles at least once a year.

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