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.