VETERANS ADVOCATE: “VA System is Broken”

A suicidal Veteran and a Call For Help, Unanswered

by Leo Shane lll
Stars and Stripes, April 24, 2012

WASHINGTON — Jacob Manning waited until his wife and teenage son had left the house, then walked into his garage to kill himself.

The former soldier had been distraught for weeks, frustrated by family problems, unemployment and his lingering service injuries. He was long ago diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, caused by a military training accident, and post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from the aftermath. He had battled depression before, but never an episode this bad.

Jacob Manning, former soldier called VA for help and reported his suicide attempt. The VA clerk told Manning it was late in the afternoon and to call back the next day.


He tossed one end of an extension cord over the rafters above and then fashioned a noose.

The cord snapped. It couldn’t handle his weight.

He called Christina Roof, a friend and national veterans policy adviser who helped him years before, and rambled about trying again with a bigger cord or a gun. She urged him to calm down. She sent a message to Manning’s wife, Charity, telling her to rush home. The two of them tried for more than a day to persuade him to get professional help.

He eventually agreed to call the veterans hospital in Columbia, Mo., near his home.

When a staffer at the mental health clinic answered the phone, Manning explained what he had done, and asked if he could be taken into care.

The staffer asked if Manning was still suicidal. He wavered, saying he wasn’t trying to kill himself right then. The hospital employee told him the office was closing in an hour, and asked if Manning could wait until the next day to deal with the problem.

Manning hung up the phone.

Hospital officials insist the staffer performed an over-the-phone assessment of Manning’s mental state and determined he wasn’t a danger to himself.

But after Stars and Stripes brought Manning’s case to Department of Veterans Affairs officials, Jan Kemp, the head of suicide prevention efforts, acknowledged that “obviously the right thing didn’t happen” in Manning’s case. She has ordered retraining for the staff there.

Read the rest of this story:

http://www.stripes.com/a-suicidal-veteran-and-a-call-for-help-unanswered-1.175397

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