Target 8: Veterans protest, claim VA frustration leads to suicides

(WFLA) – The day before the 4th of July, some veterans are dusting off their uniforms to join in parades. 

One group stood in front of the V.A. Health Care Center at Bay Pine, carrying ominous signs that state the V.A. “provides the maximum opportunity for the veterans to kill themselves.”

Every 72 minutes, an American veteran commits suicide. About 20 veterans per day take their own lives.

On Monday, some pointed the finger of blame right at the V.A.

Army veteran Brad Bolden is one of them. He stood in 90 degree heat to protest treatment at the V.A. that he sums up in one word.

“Horrible,” said Bolden.

Veteran and former Bay Pines nurse Carol Henson joined him.

“You’re just ignored, it’s like you’re a passing thought,” added Henson.

While many veterans prepare to celebrate our nation’s independence, this group blasted the organization created to care for them.

Their complaints are many.

The common theme is frustration with the V.A.

“A lot of guys commit, off themselves, because they can’t get their claims approved and there’s no reason,” said Army veteran Mike Ford.

Ford was with the 82nd Airborne. He claims the V.A. owes him seven years of back pay.

“And they pay me for one month,” he explained.

They protested problems with claims.

“It’s one thing to question what’s wrong with me, even though it’s clearly documented,” said Brad Bolden. “It’s another when you don’t address it at all.”

They protested problems with medical care.

“They make the same mistakes over and over and over again, and then you go back and they don’t correct it,” added former nurse Henson.

They protested problems with working conditions.

Keith Hansford was considered a reliable employee. Then he became a whistle blower.

“It was like flipping a switch,” said Hansord. “I went from the reliable employee to the one that had to be destroyed.”

Feeling shortchanged, ignored and betrayed by the V.A, these veterans understand where frustration can take them.

“They get frustrated and they decide, screw this, and they shoot themselves,” stated Mike Ford. “Believe me, I know, I’ve been there.”

“I understand now the suicide part, the homicide part, I understand it,” said Brad Bolden. “I lived it. I lived it, going through and not finding an ounce of help. I mean none.”

When asked for a comment, Bay Pines V.A. Healthcare System Public Affairs Officer Jason Dangle responded with an email.

It read, “I can confirm that there are or were some individuals outside our property today participating in a peaceful assembly. It is certainly their right, under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to do so – and we respect that.”

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