Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

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Grassley, Johnson, Ernst Seek Inspector General Inquiry into Veteran’s Suicide

Aug 02, 2016

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa today urged the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs to review the case of a combat veteran who committed suicide after seeking help at the Iowa City Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.  Brandon Ketchum reportedly was denied admittance to a psychiatric ward after seeking help during a mental health crisis.

“In light of what has transpired, we strongly urge your office to examine the facts and circumstances of Mr. Ketchum’s interactions with the Iowa City VA Medical Center on July 7, 2016, to determine what, if any, steps can be taken in the future to better protect our veteran population, including potential changes to VA policy, if applicable,” the senators wrote to Inspector General Michael J. Missal.  “It is also important for policymakers within the VA and in Congress to know if this is an isolated incident, how often veterans seeking inpatient mental health care are turned away, and how often this leads to adverse consequences.”

Ketchum, a native of Wisconsin living in Davenport, Iowa, was a veteran of the Marine Corps and Army National Guard. On July 7, according to a later post on his social media, he believed himself to be a threat to his own safety and sought assistance from the Iowa City VA Medical Center.    “Despite his year-long treatment with a psychiatrist at the facility that knew of his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder as well as repeated flags for suicide over the last three years, his request to be admitted to the psychiatric ward due to what he termed ‘serious mental issues’ was reportedly denied.  Mr. Ketchum took his own life just over 24 hours later,” the senators wrote. 

A representative for the medical center has stated that the standing policy is never to turn away a patient who requires admittance as long as beds are open and that even if beds at the Iowa City facility are unavailable, the VA would find the patient a bed at another facility, the senators wrote.

The senators asked to be informed of whether the inspector general’s office has decided to open an inquiry and if not, why not, and if so, for a status update when appropriate.

The letter is available here.

 

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