Showing posts with label Minneapolis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Minneapolis. Show all posts

Sunday, September 8, 2019

If We Want to Address the Crisis of Veteran Suicide, facts matter

If We Want to Address the Crisis of Veteran Suicide, We Must Acknowledge Its History


This problem is not one limited to a single country or point in time, nor is its importance limited to awareness days like World Suicide Prevention Day on Sept. 10. Military suicide has occurred for centuries around the world but has most often been overlooked or ignored.
In 2018, 33-year-old American Marine veteran Justin Miller died by suicide in the parking lot of the very organization he had turned to for help. After four days in the Minneapolis Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital, Miller had been released and immediately took his own life. Between October 2017 and November 2018, 18 additional suicides were recorded on VA campuses around the country. As recently as Aug. 7, 2019, another veteran took his own life in a VA parking lot.

These types of deaths are not limited to the United States. In December of 2018, a public mass vigil in Britain remembered 70 Scottish veterans who died by suicide that year. This event formed part of a public protest at the lack of official care and support for veterans. In April of this year, debate within the House of Commons clarified that the official statistics that determined there had been 58 veteran suicides in 2018 had grievously underestimated the actual figure. Third-sector organizations, public groups and charities assured the British government that the figure was almost double the official statistics.
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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Day after discharge, veteran's body found in VA parking lot


Marine veteran loved to fix things — but the VA offered no plan for him to help himself

He sought help from the VA while struggling with suicidal thoughts – feelings of helplessness, frustration and anxiety. After spending four days at an inpatient mental health unit, he left the hospital, went to his car and shot himself. Police found his body the following day, his phone full of voicemails and texts from his father, Greg Miller, with one message sent over and over again: “I love you. We love you. Come home.”

Watchdog finds deficiencies in care for vet who committed suicide in Minneapolis VA parking lot
Published: September 25, 2018
The next day, police found the veteran dead in the parking lot of the Minneapolis VA hospital, with a gunshot wound to the head. The local medical examiner determined the death a suicide.

WASHINGTON — A government watchdog determined a Department of Veterans Affairs mental health unit in Minneapolis didn’t follow VA policies before discharging an Iraq War veteran who committed suicide in the facility’s parking lot less than 24 hours later.

The Office of Inspector General reported Tuesday that VA staff didn’t collaborate on a discharge plan for the veteran, didn’t ensure the veteran had a follow-up appointment about newly prescribed antidepressants, and didn’t adequately document whether they had access to firearms. 

Though the VA failed in several areas, inspectors said they couldn’t determine whether the mistakes directly led to the veteran’s suicide.
The Minneapolis VA made similar errors in 2011, when a Vietnam War veteran committed suicide while under the facility’s care. A VA Inspector General report in 2012 found the hospital was “deficient” in how it handled the situation. Four of the recommendations the IG made after that suicide apply now, the IG wrote in its report.
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Saturday, August 25, 2018

Minneapolis Afghanistan veteran "Soul Medic" for those who serve

'Soul Medic:' From the battlefield to Minnesota, a therapist continues to listen
Star Tribune
By Libor Jany
AUGUST 24, 2018

After years with military, therapist Resmaa Menakem works with Minneapolis police
“We don’t take care of police officers from a human point of view. A police officer will go from watching a baby getting killed, or domestic violence, to a hit-and-run where someone has a gaping wound. And no one is asking, ‘How are you doing?’” Resmaa Menakem
Resmaa Menakem last year started offering counseling services for the Minneapolis Police Department. He says every call an officer goes on can take a psychological toll.

It got so that he could spot what ailed them almost as soon as they walked through the door.

And each time, Resmaa Menakem, then a therapist working at U.S. military bases across Afghanistan, closed his office door and listened as combat-weary soldiers and civilian workers poured out their hurt.

Since moving to the Twin Cities, his work soothing tormented minds has continued. Only now, his clients include police officers, many of whom also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Overseas, he heard about the constant rattle of insurgent gunfire and the makeshift bombs that regularly exploded in markets and outside restaurants and cafes. And he heard about what came next. Depression. Anxiety. Nightmares.

Here, he has continued to listen.
Over the years, more and more police agencies have come to recognize how officers are affected by trauma — not just from major emergencies like a mass shooting, but also the daily grind of responding to service calls. Now, many departments offer help for cops who are having difficulties.

In Minneapolis, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo has promised to transform the department’s culture “to realize that we recognize they’re not robots, they’re human beings.” Last year, the city received a $750,000 grant from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), one of five U.S. cities chosen for a pilot program to “provide community outreach for collective healing and organization support for officer wellness.” And Mayor Jacob Frey recently proposed allocating $150,000 for counseling to help officers “process what they encounter in the line of duty and recalibrate between calls.”
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Friday, January 1, 2016

Unqualified VA Doctors Getting TBI Claims Wrong

KARE 11 investigation reveals Mpls VA misdiagnosed 50 brain injured veterans
A.J. Lagoe and Steven Eckert
December 30, 2015
"I wrote a check for my life saying hey I'm here to serve my country now it's your turn to take care of me. Give me the medical attention I need." U.S. Navy veteran Anton Welke.
MINNEAPOLIS - The Veterans Administration has been using unqualified medical personnel to do examinations – and deny benefits - for traumatic brain injuries (TBI) at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, according to records obtained during a KARE 11 News investigation.

VA data from a new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filed by KARE 11 revealed the number of veterans affected.

Instead of being examined by a traumatic brain injury (TBI) specialist, records reveal 321 cases in which a veteran was examined by a doctor VA policy shows was not qualified to diagnose traumatic brain injuries.

To date, the Minneapolis, VA has re-examined 181 of those veterans and determined the unqualified doctors made quite a few mistakes. In 50 cases, an exam by a TBI specialist revealed the veterans did in fact have brain injuries and should be getting treatment and benefits previously denied.
Welke is one of the Minnesota veterans now receiving the TBI treatment and benefits he was denied for three years after an unqualified doctor in the Minneapolis VA's Compensation and Pension unit misdiagnosed him.
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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

DOD Released Names of 6 Afghanistan Fallen, 1 From Florida

6 killed in Afghanistan suicide bombing identified
By The Associated Press
Dec. 23, 2015

The deadliest attack in Afghanistan since 2013 killed six U.S. troops on Monday, including a family man from Long Island, New York; a South Texan; a New York City police detective; a Georgia high school and college athlete; an expectant father from Philadelphia; and a major from suburban Minneapolis with ties to the military's LGBT community. They were killed when their patrol was attacked by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle near Bagram Air Base, the Defense Department said. Here is more about them:

Bonacasa, 31, of Coram, Long Island, was a member of the Air National Guard. He was assigned to the 105th Airlift Wing at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York.
The 28-year-old from Mercedes, Texas, was assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, 11th Field Investigations Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas.
Lemm, 45, a 15-year veteran of the New York Police Department, was on his third tour of duty in the Middle East. He was assigned to the 105th Airlift Wing at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York.
McBride, 30, of Statesboro, Georgia, was assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.
A 30-year-old Air Force sergeant from Philadelphia, Taub was assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 816 at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. He'd been in the service for eight years and had recently re-enlisted.
The 36-year-old from Plymouth, Minnesota, in suburban Minneapolis, was assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, 9th Field Investigations Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
read more about the fallen here

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Legionnaires Bacteria Found At Minneapolis VA

Minneapolis VA taking steps to clean water system of Legionnaires disease bacteria
Star Tribune
By Josephine Marcotty
NOVEMBER 27, 2015
No human illnesses have been discovered.
Minneapolis VA officials said routine testing on Nov. 19 found the type of Legionella bacteria that causes most human illness.
The bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ Disease have been detected in water samples at the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center, and officials said they are taking steps to eliminate the pathogen.

No illnesses have been discovered.

VA officials said routine testing on Nov. 19 found the type of Legionella bacteria that cause most human illness in 5 out of 40 samples from the hospital’s water system. The hospital has since installed filters on taps and shower heads and is flushing the water system to eliminate the bacteria.

First identified in 1976 after an outbreak at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia, the Legionella bacterium causes 8,000 to 18,000 hospitalizations a year in the United States. Prompt treatment with antibiotics typically cures the infection.
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Thursday, August 27, 2015

VA Paid Psychiatrists Who Were Not Seeing Patients?

VA wasted time for mental health care, money for psychiatrists without appointments
The Washington Times
By Anjali Shastry
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
One clinic in Minneapolis boosted its psychiatric resources by 14 percent, but appointments dropped by more than 21 percent. By contrast, the clinic in Miami boosted its resources by 25 percent and its appointments by 36 percent.

The Department of Veterans Affairs wasted tens of millions of dollars last year on salaries for psychiatrists who weren’t seeing patients, the agency’s inspector general said in a report Tuesday that detailed continued problems in getting veterans the mental health care they need.

Veterans Health Administration clinics were more focused on meeting hiring goals than in getting the right number of mental health professionals on staff, the inspector general said, meaning that most of them had to rush to hire psychiatrists to meet the demand by December 2014.
read more here

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Homeless Gulf War Veteran Finds Shelter and People Care

Homeless Veteran Finds Shelter in His Truck, Help from His Friends
By: Beth McDonough
February 20, 2015
"A lot of veterans get fed up or exhausted or feel like there's no hope and they stop," he said. That's why Hammill put his pride aside and came forward with his struggle so other vets in need know it's OK to get help.
Roughly 200 veterans are without a home in the Twin Cities metro. They sleep wherever they can in the frigid cold.

For one veteran, that means his truck. Matt Hammill, a 31-year-old Navy veteran who served in the Persian Gulf, describes his life during the past few months as "hell" before being overcome with emotion. Hammill, an aircraft mechanic by trade, is homeless.

"When you don't have anywhere permanent, you just stay and kind of live out of your bag," he said.

Or in his case, his truck, which has become his home over the winter. After struggling through a night of 6 degrees below zero, he said, "I went through half a tank of fuel. I'd start it up and fall asleep, start it up, let it get warm."

He hardly slept because "there's no heat." He didn't want to go through another night like that. Out of desperation, he reached out to his military friends in another state. They rallied by starting a GoFundMe site and reaching out to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.
read more here

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Andrew Eskola, Iraq Veteran or Guardian Angel?

Iraq war veteran’s military skills help save Brainerd man’s life
Brainerd Dispatch
By Forum News Service
Dec 3, 2014
“A lot of times we take these young vets for granted,” said Bingham, “but they truly have a lot of skills to offer. It would have been like trying to plug a hole in a water pump without that tourniquet.”

Frank Bingham, 61, of Brainerd discovered the hard way just how helpful strangers can be.

Bingham was on his way home via medical transport from Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis following treatment for a heart issue a couple of weeks ago. The van driver had to first make a stop to drop off another patient at Black Bear Casino Resort and then headed over to the Junction Oasis to gas up.

Bingham headed to the restroom but found the two stalls were occupied. As he waited, he took off his Harley Davidson jacket and discovered “blood running out of my arm like a waterfall,” he recalled.

“I started feeling faint so I dived for one of the urinals and held on for dear life,” he said.

A young man came out of one of the stalls and immediately came to Bingham’s aid. As it turned out, the young man was Andrew Eskola, the store manager, who told Bingham he’d learned Combat Life Saving (CLS) skills while serving in Iraq and Kuwait.

Eskola joined the Guards after graduating from Esko High School in 2007 and deployed with the Red Bulls to Kuwait and Iraq in 2011-2012. He was honorably discharged in December 2013 after seven years of service.

Thankfully, what he learned there stuck with him.
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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Marching miles to raise awareness of military suicides

Marching miles to raise awareness of military suicides
MPR News
Photos by Jennifer Simonson
October 25, 2013

According to data compiled by the Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 18 to 22 veterans die from suicide every day in the United States. Dozens of veterans embarked Oct. 25, 2013, on a 23-mile walk to raise awareness about military suicides. The march began at the VFW on Lakeshore Drive South in Richfield, went through the State Capitol in St. Paul before ending at the VFW in Uptown Minneapolis.

The veterans, led by march organizer Landon Steele, left, walk along 65th St. W. in Richfield Friday, Oct. 25, 2013 on their way to the State Capitol in St. Paul and then on to the Uptown VFW in Minneapolis. (MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson) find more great photos here

Monday, December 31, 2012

Two tour Iraq veteran lost everything in fire

At 21 Steven Stack has now survived two deployments into Iraq and now, a fire.
Iraq War Vet Loses Everything In Condo Fire
Edward Moody
December 28, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A large fire ripped through more than a half-dozen condos in Uptown Minneapolis Friday morning, sending huge clouds of smoke into the air and one resident to the hospital.

The flames quickly chewed through three floors at the 100-year-old building on Lake Street and Irving.

The fire burned for hours before dozens of firefighters could finally get the upper hand. The culprit was found to be unattended candles.

The people who lived in the eight-unit building lost everything. Among them was a young Iraq War veteran who says he’s been trying to get back on his feet.

Steven Stack says he heard about the fire while riding the bus on his way home from work.

“I did not expect that it was the building I’ve been staying in,” he said. “You go to work, you get off and you just plan on going about your day.”

Stack says he served two tours of duty in Iraq. The 21-year-old army specialist says he’s been working through post-traumatic stress disorder. He says seeing flames shooting out of his building didn’t help his condition.
read more here

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Minneapolis VA faulted after Vietnam vet's suicide

Minneapolis VA faulted after Vietnam vet's suicide
Tuesday, August 28, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center was "deficient" in its handling of a suicidal Vietnam War veteran who killed himself while under the agency's care, according to a recent report by the national Veterans Administration office.

The one-time Marine had survived a recent suicide attempt, and mental health staff warned that he might attempt suicide again. But the hospital failed to follow up, according to the report from the VA Inspector General's office.

"While we cannot say whether implementation of (recommended) measures would have changed the outcome of this case, the facility nonetheless did not adhere to (VA) guidelines on managing this patient at high risk of suicide," the report said.

Ralph Heussner, a spokesman for the Minneapolis VA, said the hospital has since improved communication between departments about high-risk patients and updated its suicide-prevention training and policies.

"Every veteran's suicide is a tragedy and we appreciate the review of this incident," Heussner said. "We will use this information to improve our system of flagging potential risks."
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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Veterans’ needs in spotlight

Veterans’ needs in spotlight
U.S. Army Col. David W. Sutherland of the Pentagon was in Duluth to help veterans agencies unite to improve services
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune

Chuck Smith has walked through the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Minneapolis and seen what improvised explosive devices have done to men and women who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He’s upset with how long it can take for benefits to reach some of the people who have lost limbs or experienced other life-changing injuries while at war.

“When someone’s legs are blown off and they can’t return to work and they’ve answered the call to defend their country, there should be a way to fast-track (help),” Smith said. “No one should have to wait six months to a year and a half.”

Smith is head of the veterans service office for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, who was a “grunt” in the Vietnam War. He was one of several area veterans who met Friday for a picnic at the Duluth Veterans Place in West Duluth with U.S. Army Col. David W. Sutherland.
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Veterans’ needs in spotlight

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Chaplain Vakoc fell at care center before death

Chaplain fell at care center before death

The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Jul 1, 2009 9:17:30 EDT

MINNEAPOLIS — A medical examiner's report says the military chaplain gravely wounded in Iraq five years ago suffered head injuries in a fall at his nursing home just before his death.

The Hennepin County medical examiner's report lists the cause of Rev. Tim Vakoc's death as blunt-force head injuries related to a fall.
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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Veterans voice health care concerns

Veterans voice health care concerns
By Mark Anderson, Staff Writer

Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2008 1:42 PM CST

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Around 100 veterans attended a town hall meeting on Friday, January 11, to learn more about the Veterans Administration health care system, and for state VA officials to answer their questions. Some of the questions related to the St. James VA Clinic, and there were representatives from the clinic there to meet veterans face to face.The first question was why veterans still have to go to Minneapolis for some services. The veterans were told that there are some specialties that the VA does not contract for in St. James, so the only way to get the special care through the VA is to take the van to Minneapolis. The VA is working on using telemedicine as one solution to the issue, which involves sending the information to the specialists through electronic means.

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