VA Begins Investigation of Death in Palo Alto

31 Aug 2011

The Department of Veterans Affairs has begun an investigation into the death of an Iraq war veteran who stepped in front of a train after he had allegedly been turned away from a VA mental health facility.
William Hamilton died in the incident in May 2010. According to an investigation, the 26-year-old veteran had been refused entry into the VA facility. According to some of the notes that a social worker made, the Palo Alto hospital could not accept his transfer “so late in the day.”

Hamilton has been admitted at least nine times to the VA psychiatric facility in Palo Alto. He had severe psychiatric problems, and claimed he saw demons. He also had “conversations” with a person killed in Iraq. In 2005, he had been a witness to the death of a friend killed by insurgents in Iraq.

Since Hamilton's death, California veterans’ disability benefits lawyers are asking more questions about the VA’s sloppy handling of veterans who return from Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the Bay Citizen, the Department of Veterans Affairs knows of at least 4,194 veterans who died after returning home from combat zones out of which, more than 50% died within two years of being discharged.

About 1200 of these people had been receiving disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs because of their mental health conditions. Most of the veterans, not surprisingly, suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. According to some estimates, about 18 veterans commit suicide in the United States every day.

In fact, the number of people committing suicide after returning from combat zones is fast increasing over the number of people actually killed in combat. According to the VA's own records, although the number of people who have committed suicide is lower than the number of people killed between 2001 and 2010 in combat zones, the monthly count of deaths from suicide is actually increasing compared to numbers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since September 2007.