An Iraq veteran was found frozen to death in the woods after a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital turned him away.
Richard Miles, 40, decided to check himself into the VA hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, when he realized his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was spiraling out of control. But staff turned him away, electing to give him medication to cope. Miles was found dead five days later in the woods. He froze to death and had a toxic amount of sleeping pills present in his system, CNN reports.
“That was his cry for help and it was not taken seriously or received the way it should have been received,” Katie Hopper, Miles’ ex-girlfriend, told CNN.
The problems began soon after Miles returned from Iraq in 2004.
According to medical records, Miles reported seeing dead bodies and having nightmares which left him angry, sad and very irritable.
Miles was a top presenter at the Science Center of Iowa, but most of his fellow employees were unaware of his struggles with PTSD.
He suddenly disappeared for a few days in January and a missing person report was filed. Miles later returned and spent some time with Hopper.
Miles soon realized that he needed more help and visited the VA hospital on Feb. 15, which had an extensive list of his medical records showing suicide attempts. He had also previously been hospitalized four times for PTSD between 2008 and 2009. This time, the medical attendant turned him away, dispensing medication instead of bringing him into the hospital for further observation and treatment. Miller returned home, went for a walk, and was found frozen to death days later.
“The VA failed him. They failed him,” Hopper told CNN. Miles’ friends want answers from a VA already embroiled in scandal for failing to provide proper care to veterans. Republican Sen. Joni Ernst is requesting a federal investigation into the VA Central Iowa Health Care System. Law enforcement is still looking into the case.
The VA is still insisting that staff followed proper procedures. They gave Miles medication that he said had helped. They also scheduled an additional appointment for the next week. But Brandon Coleman, a disabled Marine Corps veteran, said the fact that ‘proper procedures’ were followed is meaningless if those procedures are insufficient in the first place.
“We can’t just hand these guys pills,” Coleman told CNN.
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