Federal authorities are investigating the suicide death of Peter A. Kaisen, a 76-year-old veteran of the Navy and police force who shot himself in a parking lot of the Northport VA Hospital.
Representatives Steve Israel and Peter King are demanding a thorough probe into the events surrounding Kaisen’s death. In a letter to FBI Director James Comey, the pair wrote “it is critical that our nation’s veterans feel they can trust the services provided by their VA medical facilities, and that their health and well-being is of the priority.”
There have been reports that Kaisen committed suicide after being turned away for emergency treatment for mental health problems, but these have yet to be corroborated by evidence. VA spokesperson Todd Goodman claims Kaisen did not enter any buildings in the facility before taking his life, saying “there is no indication he presented to the E.R. prior to the incident.”
Despite Goodman’s insistence Kaisen did not visit the hospital’s facilities before he took his own life, friends of the veteran, as well as employees of the Northport VA, have insisted the institution “dropped the ball” with regards to Kaisen’s care. In the words of one anonymous worker, “He went to the E.R. and was denied service. And then he went to his car and shot himself.”
The Federal investigation will without a doubt reveal the truth of the matter, but it will do little to minimize the latest in a frightening trend of suicides among the nation’s military veterans. Presently, more than 20 veterans commit suicide a day, and far greater number of military personnel take their own lives than die in combat against an enemy. Of all suicide deaths among adult males in the United States, 18-percent are veterans.
Public reaction to Kaisen’s suicide has been impassioned and emotional:
Kaisen’s death has—whether fairly or not—once again shined a light on the systemic issues with how this country takes care of those who served. Northport’s VA Hospital had come under scrutiny as recently as May, when it shut down all five of its operating rooms after sand-size black particles began to fall in from the air ducts. The VA system as a whole has also been plagued by backlogging of records, meaning many veterans have had to wait unreasonably long for things like paper work and basic health services. A segment from the Daily show in 2014 focused on the issue of backlogging. Local Representative Lee Zeldin and other local politicians have been looking into the issue for some time.
Joan Kaisen, wife of Peter Kaisen, reported that her husband left the house on Sunday without a word. She also said she personally felt the hospital was understaffed on the day Peter killed himself, but has yet to make any comment on the alleged failing of the hospital to care for him. “All I want is justice for the vets,” she said. “I don’t want his demise to be in vain.”
Featured Image: Exterior Shot of a Portion of the Northport VA Hospital, Source: Public Domain
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