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Mr. President: Drain the VA Swamp

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Mr. President, we sent you to D.C. to drain the swamp. Firing FBI Director James Corey was a good start. I don't know a single conservative who trusted him. Now it's time to drain the VA swamp.

Because hero vets dying in battle is a tragedy. But allowing our heroes to die on American soil at the hands of the Veterans Administration because of neglect, indifference, incompetence, or pure criminal negligence is a national disgrace.

This story isn’t about a generic vet. This is the story of Sgt. Eric Thomsen, United States Air Force. Eric lost his battle. He committed suicide only weeks ago. He was loved by his family - including my wonderful friends, his sisters Erika Lipton and Capt. Roxie Merritt, US Navy (Ret.). Eric was a loving father of Heather, Robert, and Joseph, and grandfather at the time of his death. 

Eric was a typical courageous American hero. He was 100% prepared to give his life for his country on a faraway battlefield. What he never expected was to lose his life here at home, because of the indifference of his own government.

Eric was a typical American kid. His story could be your son, your brother, your husband, your father. Eric grew up with a dream of joining the Air Force, just like his father. His moral code was always about sacrifice, duty and honor. Eric married his high school sweetheart when she became pregnant. He was 19 years old in 1974 when he left college and enlisted in the Air Force to provide for his new son. While in the Air Force, Eric put himself through college and became an air traffic controller. He retired as a Master Sergeant. 

Because of his loss of hearing, he was forced to give up his career as an Air Traffic Controller once in the private sector. He was hired by Sprint to oversee the government’s communications. Then the problems began.

Eric suffered from depression. He was put on so many medications by the VA hospital, including amphetamines and various tranquilizers, to the point of being addicted to the prescriptions, which worsened his depression. Eventually the VA performed Electro Shock Therapy on him as an outpatient. ECT should always be performed on an inpatient basis because of the potential dangerous side effects. 

Because of a bad combination of so many drugs prescribed by the VA and the unsupervised effects of ECT, Eric’s depression became crushing. His personality changed to the point his friends and family no longer recognized him.  

Unable to work, Eric was forced to retire. He applied to the VA for a disabled designation. Eric had to agree to have a VA Fiduciary assigned to take over his finances - even though he was quite capable of handling this himself. That was the VA’s rule for psychiatric disability. 

This was the beginning of the end for Eric. The nightmare for this American hero spiraled out of control as Eric claimed to witness his assigned VA Fiduciary destroy his finances. Eric complained repeatedly to his VA caseworkers. They did nothing. It was just his word against the VA Fiduciary.

NOTE: Eric’s family- including his sister Roxie (a retired U.S. Navy Captain) witnessed the entire situation and backs up his story.

Eric pleaded for help from a U.S. Senator, who proclaimed to be an advocate for veterans. Eric wrote and called the U.S. Senator’s office many times. The assistants who answered the phones at the Senator’s office admitted they were overwhelmed with calls from vets in crisis. He was told to wait. But for Eric waiting wasn't an option - he was unraveling by the day. No one from the Senator’s office ever called back.

The worst part for Eric was that nobody at the VA would believe him about the assigned VA Fiduciary stealing from him. By this time, with his lifelong savings taken, Eric lost his home - because payments were never made by the VA Fiduciary.

Finally, Eric got an Arizona state representative to listen to him and help him. The VA Fiduciary was not fired, but rather "reassigned." 

At this point, Eric had enough of the Arizona VA, and moved away. Eric was extremely dependent on his many VA drug prescriptions and could not function without them. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a VA hospital near him, so he often drove long distances to pick up his prescriptions. He always had to be there exactly on the last day, because of VA scheduling, and never had any medicine as a cushion to allow any flexibility. 

As his depression continued to worsen, he got very frustrated and often couldn’t even get out of bed, let alone travel so far to pick up meds. VA rules didn’t allow him to use civilian doctors or hospitals. If he missed his appointment, he was out of luck (and out of meds). He spiraled from disaster to disaster.

In the last few months of his life, Eric was consumed with bitterness and depression over his treatment by the VA. He finally couldn’t take it anymore. Sgt. Eric Thomsen committed suicide. 

The pain, shame, depression and desperation was finally over.

Sadly, nothing has changed. Eric’s story happens every day at the VA. Since his tragic suicide, many of Eric’s military vet buddies have called his family to offer condolences. All of them recite similar experiences. All of them express extreme frustration at the VA’s lack of caring, and huge bureaucratic red tape. They all feel like they are up against “a brick wall” when it comes to getting any attention to their plights. Many of them admit to having constant thoughts of suicide.

Twenty-two vets a day commit suicide in the United States. Each of them - like Eric- gave their lives for their country. Just not the way they expected. 

This veteran crisis doesn't attract headlines. Because the reality is…

The mainstream media doesn’t care. They don't personally know any vets. To journalists, those 22 suicides a day are just another statistic. They didn’t know Sgt. Eric Thomsen. Now you do. Rest in peace, Eric. 

In honor of Sgt. Eric Thomsen, please drain the VA swamp, President Trump.

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