Wednesday, March 14, 2007
VA hospital turned away suicidal vet, family says
Although he earned two purple hearts for fighting in Iraq, Marine Jonathan Schulze was rejected by a Minnesota VA hospital when he needed urgent treatment.

Schulze was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by his family physician. He was prescribed Ambien, Valium, and Paxil, but they didn't help. When Schulze began to feel suicidal, he turned to the VA hospital in St. Cloud, Minnesota, about an hour outside Minneapolis.

His father and stepmother both insist they heard Schulze tell the intake nurse he was "suicidal." But instead of admitting him, the hospital told Schulze to go home and call back the next day.

The family says it was told the social worker who screens PTSD patients was too busy to see him. When Schulze called back the next day, his stepmom says she listened as he told the social worker he felt suicidal. The hospital then responded by telling him he was Number 26 on the waiting list for one of 12 PTSD patient beds. In other words, he'd need to wait at least two weeks before he could get treatment.

Is that any way to respond to a Iraqi Veteran who is telling you he's suicidal? And why, with the U.S. fighting two wars in the Middle East, are there only 12 beds reserved at this hospital for PTSD patients? The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs expects one in five veterans will need to be treated for PTSD.

The Marine's dad, Jim Schulze, said, "When a vet cries out that he is suicidal, even if they had to set up a bed in the kitchen, you don't turn them away. You don't put them on a waiting list."

Four days after his visit to the VA hospital, Jonathan Schulze put a household electric cord around his neck and hanged himself in the basement of a friend's home. A picture of his one-year-old daughter was at his side.

"If our men are going to serve for our country and serve in a war and a conflict then when they come home, they should be taken care of. They were promised when they were in, when they signed on the piece of paper, and they come home, and they have a problem, and what are they told, you're number 26?" his stepmom, Marianne Schulze, told me through her tears.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is investigating why Schulze wasn't admitted immediately. It wouldn't comment on the case. Neither would the hospital.
Posted By Randi Kaye, CNN Correspondent: 5:37 PM ET
  52 Comments
So sad to hear this, my thoughts and prayers are with the Schulze family.
Posted By Anonymous Molly, Greenwood, Delaware : 5:50 PM ET
Why are you only coming out with this now? This was in the news about three weeks ago!!
Posted By Anonymous Ed, Phoenix, AZ : 5:59 PM ET
When will America wake up that we were founded as a progressive peace seeking, multi-denominational nation. This current administrations war policy and its abuse of civil and religous rights in the name of terrorism is appalling. God please bless America when we need it most.
Posted By Anonymous Mike from Erie PA : 5:59 PM ET
Absolutely dispicable. How can we be doing this all over again. First the Democrats get us in an illegal war in Vietnam, now the Republicans in Iraq. We should all be ashamed, no wonder we are now and will be for a long time the laughing stock of the world.
Posted By Anonymous Rich Boswell, Seattle, WA : 6:00 PM ET
I feel for this mans family and him.

My uncle is a vet from Vietnam. He has this horrible cough and has had it since Oct 2006. He has tried to go to our local VA hospital and they always tell him they dont have room for him and to call back tomorrow. Everytime he calls they tell him they are too busy to help him. He honestly sounds like he is going to die.

It is so sad that these men and women go risk their lives for our freedom and we can't even take care of them here at home. What does that show them? DISRESPECT!
Posted By Anonymous Becky SLC Utah : 6:01 PM ET
I live in the Twin Cities and this is absolutely disgusting!!! I remember reading this story and I can't imagine the frustration and sadness the family must be feeling at this time. Another case of good american men and women being signed up for an illegal war and then left to fend for themselves when they are most vulnerable. This country needs a new leader and leadership. Can't wait for 08' My thoughts are with the family of this brave soldier and all soldiers stationed at home and around the world. May you come home quickly and safely!
Posted By Anonymous Ben, Twin Cities, MN : 6:01 PM ET
So what your article is telling us Randi is that the vets should take first position from all the other people who are suicidal? That shouldn't be the issue. Lack of proper health care is the issue and that is what your government should be answering.
Posted By Anonymous Nicki, Calgary, Alberta : 6:02 PM ET
It thrills me to no end that our veteran's treatment is getting the coverage that has been denied for far too long. Unfortunately, it is only when the media exposes these problems, does the government choose to act. Our government is nothing more than the equivalent of a shady, used car salesman. They'll promise you the world to get you to enlist. After that you can pretty much go to hell. They've never properly cared for any veteran of any war unless there was close media scrutiny. They're all over Walter Reed right now. And now, after running this story I'm sure they'll fire a general or two in an effort to appease the public. The moment these stories are forgotten, is the moment the veterans and the families involved will be forgotten as well. My heart and prayers go out to the family of this and all other soldiers that have been forgotten by all except their loved ones.
Posted By Anonymous Todd Matthews, Bailey NC : 6:02 PM ET
As a person that watchest CNN, I think the article is not written objectively--the hospital needs to get to state their side of the story. As an RN (formerly military), I feel that it is the responsponsibility, if the patient states he is suicidal, to get him placed in a mental health facility-- VA, military, or civilian. The wrong answer is to send him home--the outcome is too predictable.
Posted By Anonymous Chuck McClenny, Dallas, TX : 6:05 PM ET
Politicians are to blame.....I have been hearing about unsatisfactory conditions with our VA hospitals since I was a child....I am now 47. Maybe some of them could donate some of their taxpayer retirements to better this situation.
God Bless our Veterans and our Troops!!!
God Bless Mr. Schultze's young daughter!
Posted By Anonymous timm, New Orleans, La. : 6:05 PM ET
Welcome to the United States...medical care, and especially psychiatric care are nearing impossible to reach without entering through an emergency room with blue lips or a gaping wound. God bless his family and his sweet baby girl.
Posted By Anonymous Miranda, Imperial, CA : 6:06 PM ET
This story is absolutely appalling. How can you possibly turn down a man that served our country? How can you tell him that he's "Number 26" on the list?? Without any questions, he should have been admitted and treated. I feel bad for his daughter. Now she is going to have to live her life knowing that her daddy was turned away for help. I hope someone is held responsible for this.

How many other times has this happened??
Posted By Anonymous Heather, Dover DE : 6:07 PM ET
I cannot believe that our country will send our children out to fight in war but yet when it comes down to treating them for illnesses they develop while serving their country they are on a waiting list? Something is terribly wrong. WE NEED TO CHANGE IT!
Posted By Anonymous Helen, Sebastopol, CA : 6:08 PM ET
This story is just another example of how our military is throwing away its soldiers when it is through with them. This young man deserved to be treated immediately. I am ashamed of the way our country is treating our fighting men and women. My condolences to his family.
Posted By Anonymous Carolyn, Silver Spring, MD : 6:08 PM ET
I can't say that I'm all that surprised by this story. It is sad that a war vet can be turned away at a veterans hospital when he clearly stated that he was feeling suicidal. I have visited local emergency rooms a few times over the last several years for myself and others in my family only to have to wait several hours to see a doctor or nurse. I'm not sure what the purpose is of an emergency room is anymore unless you are on deaths doorstep. Our nations medical care has become so "non urgent" that a story like this is typical nowadays. Something really needs to be done about our medical care system because the lack of caring by the people who work in this profession has become a serious problem.
Posted By Anonymous Shawn, Memphis TN : 6:08 PM ET
I believe there is a real issue in this country. We are so concerned with going over seas and making the lives of other countries liveable-yet our men and women who go over there to try to complete the task come home and they are tossed aside. What a shame.
Posted By Anonymous Jenni Brockel Fargo, ND : 6:08 PM ET
Disgraceful.
I am ashamed to be American when I read things like this.
We should all be ashamed.
Posted By Anonymous John, Spartanburg, SC : 6:08 PM ET
A horrible tragedy. My father has experienced the same type of treatment at a VA Outpatient Clinic in Austin, TX. We were told by the psychiatrist treating him he would be admitted to the VA hospital so we left him in the care of the Dr. that day. At 4pm that same day my mother gets a phone call that they are leaving my wheel chair bound-diabetic father, who is mentally ill, in the parking lot because the Dr. didn't know how to fill out the paperwork to admit him. And if we didn't come pick him up, they would call the police to have him arrested for trespassing on VA property after hours. They told us to pick him up and come back tomorrow. We went back the next day and the Dr. had taken the day off.
Posted By Anonymous Tonia, Austin, TX : 6:08 PM ET
A very tragic story, how our own government's system has failed to care for our men and women who proudly served overseas in a war conflict.
Posted By Anonymous J.C. Orial , Duluth, Ga. : 6:08 PM ET
It is shame that vets are treated this way. The administration is staying the course!
Posted By Anonymous Al Batrovich, Nashville TN : 6:08 PM ET
As a veteran, I'm amazed that the public is just now recognizing or caring about the way active duty members or vets are treated..or should I say mistreated. I thought it was common knowledge just how screwed up the medical care for our military is.
Posted By Anonymous Amanda, Smiths, AL : 6:09 PM ET
As a vet myself I find this story doubly sad. Firstly, it's terrible that this man could not receive treatment that might have saved his life. Any loss of human life is a tragedy.

Secondly, it's sad that this is probably not the exception, but the rule. VA and military medical practices are woefully poor on whole.
Posted By Anonymous Michael, Cambridge MA : 6:09 PM ET
This is horrible, I can't fathom why the person he talked to at the hospital wouldn't even think to mention the suicide hotline when he said he was suicidal.
Posted By Anonymous Anthony Cavanaugh, Urbana, IL : 6:09 PM ET
This is an unfortunate circumstance. However, the VA hospital, as a type of socialized medicine, does not have unlimited funding. Therefore, the 12 beds at this facility likely had 12 patients that needed PTSD care, and how can anyone say Schulze was more in need than the others. Either more funding must be allocated or this type of backlog won't be relieved.
Posted By Anonymous Charles, Los Angeles, CA : 6:09 PM ET
An example of our government's priorities. Pathetic
Posted By Anonymous Heidi, Minneapolis MN : 6:10 PM ET
Such a tragedy. Why won't the government take better care of our soldiers? I lost a loved one to suicide. All I could do was wish I could have done something to prevent it. This one could have been prevented!! That is intolerable! Someone should be made accountable.
Posted By Anonymous Tiffany, Baton Rouge, Louisiana : 6:10 PM ET
I am an Iraqi War Veteran living in Memphis, TN. It breaks my heart to hear about young warriors giving everything and receiving nothing for their selfless sacrifices.

Veterans are not thugs. We are not brainless, and we are not props to be used to further political agendas.

It's a sad fact of life that there are so many people in America who support the troops openly, but when it comes to walk the walk - it was all just a game to win a vote or to feel good about themselves. Let's get real. To hell with politics...just give the Vets the help they deserve.
Posted By Anonymous Joe Boundy, Memphis, TN : 6:10 PM ET
It's terrible that our country is ignoring the cries of our vets. It's no surprise what is happening with Walter Reed Hospital if similar acts are occurring around the country.
Posted By Anonymous Stephanie, Washington, DC : 6:10 PM ET
It's a plain and infuriating example of the detachment and aloofness that permeates the VA and other institutions that have retreated behind corporate procedures, instead of applying common sense. Immediate retraining is necessary, and those "too busy to handle" an additional case need to look for another job. I'd like to read in the papers the names of those wannabe-bureaucrats that think that their federal jobs are safe, now that the media's attention is on them
Posted By Anonymous Ben Provo, UT : 6:11 PM ET
While I think it is truly devastating that this young man was turned away from the VA Hospital, and certainly something that should be investigated by the Veterans Administration, I find equal fault with his parents. They both admitted to knowing he felt suicidal, yet did not feel compelled to do anything about it. I have two children, and if I thought either one of them needed help that desperately I would do absolutely anything in my power to enable that,even if it meant great financial hardship for me. There are always other options available as an alternative to VA care, and it seems that in this dire of a circumstance it would have been appropriate for his parents to pursue another course of action. I feel it is probably their own guilt that is making them lash out at the VA instead of accepting some of the blame for their failure to help their son.
Posted By Anonymous Rebecca, Hanford, CA : 6:11 PM ET
The fact that this Vet even reached out for help, when so many won't because of the stigma attached to mental health illnesses, to be turned away is appalling. The sad part is this happens more than we probably even realize. We have got to start dealing with all the ramifications of this war. The casualties are more than just the ones in Iraq. They are here in the U.S.
Posted By Anonymous Elaine Webb, Raleigh, NC : 6:13 PM ET
My in laws parents are from Minneapolis and I guess it was a much bigger story over there than in California where I live. I just shed a tear reading the story. I find it inconceivable that we can ask so much of our young troops and spend billions of dollars to help them push our governements agenda while taking fire. All this young man needed was a little compassion and bed. Absoulutely sickening.
Posted By Anonymous Tobiah Finegan, San Diego, CA : 6:13 PM ET
Oh My God,
How can you people do this to your own let alone your heros? That child will never have her father for the rest of her life!! The military by example USED this man Jonathan Schulze like we would use a napkin from a take out meal...he served his purpose and was discarded.
Shame!!! Shame on you and your pathetic system!!!!!
Posted By Anonymous Susan,Newfoundland,Canada : 6:13 PM ET
Sorry to hear about the outcome of Jonathan Schulze. Here is a Marine who answered the call of duty, received 2 purple hearts and only to be turned away when requesting help is an awful tragedy. Someone has to be held accountable for this just as someone was held accountable for the Walter Reed Hospital fiasco. As the war in Iraq continues and more soldiers are dispatch to the Iraq, more soldiers� will be coming home with PTSD. If the VA Hospital is not able to handle the �load� than other procedures should be in place to refer those in need of help. We can not afford to treat our servicemen/ women as second class citizens
Posted By Anonymous Gus Ventura County, California : 6:13 PM ET
This is absolutely deplorable.. the president who made the decision to send these men and women to war should have to face this family and his daugter when she asks about her dad.. or the person that had to find him..
Posted By Anonymous Julie-Chicago, IL : 6:13 PM ET
I think this is rediculous and should not be tolerated by anyone who served in our Country. This is very upsetting to know that our veterans are being once again treated with no respect after risking their lives for all of us. I think the hospital should be held accountable for this young mans death and they better be glad he was not my son because I would never give up until these kinds of things were changed. This is totally disgusting to know that this young man killed himself and now his daughter will never get to know what a wonderful person he probably was all because he could not get help when he needed it.
Posted By Anonymous Corine Wright Austin, Texas : 6:13 PM ET
Ya know this is really nothing new for the U.S. Government. They have always treated vets badly. Denied treatment and responsibility. Why the big uproar now?
Posted By Anonymous Mike, Lawton, OK : 6:13 PM ET
As a Vet, from a long family line of vets, I have to say that Criminal doesn't even begin to cover what happened to this poor man. A lot of us tend to view the VA as a joke, but then something like this comes along to remind us that it is in fact a tragedy. The promise is supposed to go both ways, we put our lives on the line, and they are supposed to care for us when we need it. I guess that someone missed the second part of that.
Posted By Anonymous Matt, Windsor Locks, Ct : 6:15 PM ET
I am thankful this has finally caught national attention. I live in the Twin Cities and was horrified when I heard the news of this after it first happened. I think the only way to make a change is for something like this to get a lot of national attention - to get a lot of people mad enough to force change. Thank you for drawing attention to this horrible event. Hopefully much needed change will come, and very quickly.
Posted By Anonymous Kristi, St. Paul, Minnesota : 6:15 PM ET
This shouldn't be a suprise for the VA system when it comes to treating any mental condition. In this situation, the Iraq veteran is in the same boat as the Vietnam veteran was in the 1970's. At least now they have a name for it, PTSD, but they don't take it seriously!
Posted By Anonymous Ron Edgerton, Conway, AR : 6:15 PM ET
In the 70's the situation was the same for Vietnam vets. vets went to Cleveland to the VA with drug problems that were acquired in Nam. Denial of service was the rule of the day. I had a friend, Dennis ---, who blew his head off after being denied admission.
We took him to the VA numerous times for his problem.
Posted By Anonymous John Bovyer; Hudson, OH : 6:16 PM ET
This kind of treatment has been going on for years and years and years. As a matter-of-fact Ray Liotta, Forest Whitaker, Kiefer Sutherland and Lea Thompson starred in Article 99, a movie about VA hospitals hopless situations. For those who are closely associated with regular active duty military, this type of treatment is the rule and not the exception. Sad, but true.

A service member is suppose to be referred to a civilian facility if a military facility cannot treat the patient, and there is suppose to be no cost to the service member. Apparently, that wasn't done in this case. . .or probably too many others.
Posted By Anonymous SH, Fort Huachuca, AZ : 7:05 PM ET
Why is this coming out now. It has long been known by us US Vets of the shabby conditions and poor treatment in these facilities. I feel for the family but this should be newsworthy when their is a war going on if should have been knew while the rest us were being treated the same way.
Posted By Anonymous Michael, Dallas Texas : 7:05 PM ET
Nobody who has ever encountered the VA medical system will be surprised by this. The entire operation is a horror show run mostly by lazy, self-important, arrogant and self satisfied bureaucrats. The VA in Buffalo killed my father through inadequate care, misinformed us he wasn't due an honor guard, and buried him on the wrong day. The Director of the Buffalo VA's response to complaints? "Well, whay are you complaining? He didn't have to pay for anything!"
Posted By Anonymous John Stamey Syracuse NY : 7:05 PM ET
This is the type of problem that occurs when policy is not integrated. The president increases troups & increases the number of times women & men are sent into the Iraq war, but he did not include in his plan how to take care of troops who need treatment when they come home. There is probably no plan set up for helping the families who have women & men at war. I have heard stories of families helping each other, but I doubt the president thought they might need financial & emotional support or planned to provide this.
Posted By Anonymous Hazel Shaughnessy, Houston, TX : 7:06 PM ET
CNN and other news outlets need to expose further the atrocity that is the horrible treatment provided to our war-ravaged soldiers, from this and other wars. Bush and his compassionate conservatism/oil buddies have directly contributed to the downward spiral our society has taken. It ought to be downright criminal for the Administration to do this to OUR people!!! Please get the word out.
Posted By Anonymous RR, Dallas, Texas : 7:07 PM ET
Very sad, but lets get the facts straight. My fiance works at a VA and saying you are "suicidal" is a common ploy used by vets seeking " 3 hots and a cot", three meals and place to lay there usually alcohol and drug raged bodies for the night. After scores vets calling every day saying they are suicidal a policy is put in place to help weed out the ones looking for this benefit.The family should have used other means and I don't blame the VA at all.
Posted By Anonymous JB Albuquerque, NM : 7:07 PM ET
This story is very sad. As a member of a strong and proud military family; the fact that VA hospitals are turning those most in needs is utterly disgusting. Those in charge of VA hospitals need to take responsiblity for their actions. I think the whole VA system needs a overhaul badly and very soon. With more and more wounded troops coming home the need is there for both physical and mental healthcare. Our troops only deserve the best is all aspects of care!
Posted By Anonymous Sarah C. Gastonia, NC : 7:07 PM ET
I think it is very sad the treatment that our veterans receive. How dare people live free and be protected by our service men and women and yet when they ask for protection they can not get it.
Posted By Anonymous Mary, Murrieta,CA : 7:08 PM ET
Hey Randi - this is unbelievable. Just on a basic human level, how could someone look a suicidal man in the eye and tell him to come back later? Tell him you don't have time for him? That's like calling the suicide hotline and being put on hold.

We thought nothing could be rival the apalling treatment of Katrina victims, well I think we've just seen it. How long are we going to tolerate the incompetence of this administration in handling the needs of the people when they are the most vulnerable and need help? Sadly though, it's too late to for this gentleman and nothing can return him to his loved ones.

My condolences to his family and hope God will help them through this difficult time.
Posted By Anonymous Christina, Windber, PA : 7:09 PM ET
As a former health care employee at the VAMC, this does not surprise me. We had a saying for this when I worked there. It was called, "The VA way." It described how their system operates: slow. These scenarios happen more than you think. The Walter Reed scandal should bring the light all the atrocities in the militiary's hospital systems. Wake up, America. We do not take care of our own.
Posted By Anonymous Becky. Ohio : 7:10 PM ET
Shame on the Military! I do not agree that this war was necessary nor do I think we should be there. However, I do agree that these americans deserve the care they need and were promised for sacraficing so much.
Posted By Anonymous Virginia Sylvia, Chico, Ca. : 7:10 PM ET
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