Portsmouth Police Investigating Death of Virginia-Based Command Master Chief as Suicide

Master Chief Petty Officer Gregg Snaza, 50, is One of the Navy’s Most Senior Navy Enlisted Leaders Thought to Have Died of Suicide, Few Details Released

by Mike Hixenbaugh, October 28, 2015
The Virginian-Pilot

PORTSMOUTH VA — The top enlisted sailor at the command overseeing all of the Navy’s bases in the mid-Atlantic region died Monday night at his home.

Master Chief Petty Officer Gregg Snaza was 50.

“Master Chief Snaza served our nation, our Navy and sailors with honor and distinction for more than 32 years,” Rear Adm. Rick Williamson, commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, said in a statement.

Snaza reported to the Norfolk-based command in May.

The Navy did not give the cause of death. Portsmouth police spokeswoman Misty Holley said it is being investigated as a suicide.

Snaza was the senior enlisted adviser to Williamson, who oversees more than 94,000 sailors in 20 states.

He previously served as command master chief of the Navy Exchange Command and the carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Snaza is survived by his wife, two daughters, parents and a grandson.

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TURNED AWAY: Veterans Most at Risk of Suicide Are Least Able to Get VA Care

TURNED AWAY: Veterans Most at Risk of Suicide Are Least Able to Get VA Care

More than 136,000 sick and wounded veterans of the post-9/11 generation locked out of VA medical care intentionally

by Bradford Adams
Swords for Plowshares, May 27, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO — Despite commitments by the VA, Congress and White House to address veteran suicide, the VA specifically denies life-saving services to those who are most at-risk—veterans with a military discharge under less than honorable conditions. A recent study found that the suicide rate is more than double among this group of former servicemembers. Veteran suicide will remain an epidemic unless we finally provide these veterans with all the mental health care at our disposal. The VA is holding back in this fight and it must stop.

VA officials falsely claim that their hands are tied by Congress. It’s true that Congress said some servicemembers may have been so dishonorable that they should not be eligible for veteran services. But the VA is authorized to decide who should be excluded, based on rules it wrote. The VA excludes the majority of these veterans from receiving full mental health care. For post-9/11 vets, the VA has only evaluated 10% of these cases and it turned away 65% of the ones they did evaluate. This means that 136,000 people who signed up to serve our country, some of whom deployed to combat zones and sustained life-long disabilities while serving, are being denied VA medical care. They are among those men and women who are most in need of the care.

I served the in the U.S. Army and deployed to Afghanistan. When I returned home, I became an attorney at a nonprofit that helps veterans access the care they need. A lot of the people I work with have less than honorable discharges or “bad paper.” I know firsthand that PTSD and service-related mental health conditions are often the reason for the bad paper discharge in the first place. One infantryman I work with saw intense combat in the First Gulf War, attempted suicide while still in service, and then received bad paper when he left to seek care and support from his family. He was denied VA medical care and then spent a decade living on the streets, with a series of suicide attempts and psychiatric hospitalizations on his record. The misconduct that led to the discharge was a symptom of his PTSD, and now the VA is using that misconduct as a reason to deny him care for that very condition. This isn’t right.

My experience is that many people who had developed mental health conditions in service received bad paper discharges, and research backs this up. A 2005 study showed that Marines who deployed to combat and who received a PTSD diagnosis were 11 times more likely to receive a bad discharge. And the 2010 Army policy document on suicide prevention advises commanders to respond to at-risk behavior with stricter discipline, including separation from the service. The large majority of those people will probably never be recognized by the VA as veterans, and never receive extended veteran benefits.

The VA can fix this problem. The VA can presume that the veteran’s service was honorable if a mental health condition arose during military service which would make them eligible for VA benefits. Instead of forcing these veterans to wait months while they evaluate their case, they have the authority to grant them tentative access to VA care and services. These are easy fixes and the VA does not need any special authority to make these changes.

If the VA refuses to make these changes on its own, Congress should mandate it. Something happened that made these servicemembers unable to continue serving in the military. But they signed up and they served, at a time when most of us did not do so, and there is no reason that we should not serve them now.

Click here to read this story at the Swords to Plowshares website

SUICIDE APPOINTMENTS: Veterans Denied and Delayed Care at VA Hospitals Making Their Final Visit Deadly

More Veterans Are Killing Themselves at VA Hospitals Nationwide in 2015 as Delays and Denials for Medical Care and Benefits Continue

May 20, 2015

PHOENIX — Homeless veteran Thomas Murphy, 53, died May 10 of suicide in the parking lot of a VA facility. He shot himself in the head with a handgun after writing a note about his frustrations getting his care and benefits from VA.

He is among the more than 100,000 veterans since 9/11 to die from suicide.

More and more veterans are arriving at VA hospitals and administrative offices in a final and symbolic act of desperation. Just how many veterans have come to die by suicide at VA facilities is unknown, and VA isn’t talking.

Former U.S. Marine turned VA counselor in Phoenix, Brandon Coleman, says the problems at VA hospitals handling suicidal veterans are systemic and that most VA staff are poorly trained to deal with suicidal veterans. Coleman recently came forward as a whistleblower to expose the problems of handling suicidal veterans who come to VA for help.

Some are delayed or denied care while others are often allowed to walk out of the emergency room on their own.

On March 30, in the parking lot of the Pittsburgh VA, 31-year-old Former Army staff sergeant Michelle Langhorst also shot herself in the head with a handgun.

It has been more than a year since the secret wait list scandal at VA hospitals became headline news, yet nothing has changed. Several new programs and bills have been passed by congress, yet veterans desperate for the care and benefits they have earned continue killing themselves at VA facilities.

Congress has failed once again to take any action that effectively ensures VA provides the care and benefits veterans need and are entitled to by law.

Click here to read more about the suicide deaths of Thomas Murphy and Michelle Langhorst.