Veterans

Veteran suicide: A personal story of our great national disgrace

Wayne Allyn Root

Another American hero vet has committed suicide. Except this one is personal. This one hits home. This one isn’t just a statistic, or generic. His name was Sgt. Eric Thomsen. I’ll get to his tragic story in a moment. 

President Obama ignored vets like Sgt. Thomsen for eight long years. A massive scandal engulfed the Veterans Administration during Obama’s presidency. Vets died on fake waiting lists. Fraud was committed because there wasn’t the money to treat our heroes. So, government employees committed criminal acts to make them go away. Vets died. Obama chose to fire or punish none of the VA employees involved. 

The media said nothing. 

Now President Trump has decided to right a terrible wrong. President Trump signed a powerful Executive Order last week that received very little fanfare in the media. Trump created a new office to reform the VA and root out bad employees. The Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection will “identify any barriers that might exist to removing bad employees from the VA.”  

Once again, the media response was…

Crickets.

Why didn’t this wonderful news receive any media coverage? Why didn’t President Trump receive any positive headlines or congratulations? Because patriotic vets being mistreated and dying because of government incompetence, indifference or criminal negligence, just doesn’t interest liberal journalists or media executives.  

Liberals are right when they complain “we have two Americas.” We do. This country is badly divided. On one side, we have salt of the earth patriots, with generations of family members willing to sacrifice their lives and limbs for a country they love and greatly appreciate. 

And on the other side we have the media elite - spoiled brat liberal intellectuals who would never even consider dying for their country; spend all of their time and energy complaining about their country; don’t find America exceptional; and have no one in their entire family who has ever served in the military.

Here’s just one tragic and personal vet story that proves President Trump is on the right track. “Draining the swamp” starts with the VA. Because hero vets dying in battle is a tragedy. But allowing our heroes to die at the hands of the VA 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 the loving father of Heather, Robert, and Joseph, and a 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 in the early 90s. 

Because of hearing loss he experienced early on in his Air Force career, he was forced to give up his vocation as an air traffic controller once in the private sector. He was hired by Sprint to oversee the government’s communications. Then his problems really became acute.

Eric suffered from depression. He was put on so many medications by the VA hospital in Phoenix, including amphetamines and various tranquilizers, to the point of being addicted to the prescriptions, which worsened his depression.

Eventually he moved to Virginia. While there, the VA performed Electro Shock Therapy (ECT) on him as an outpatient (even though he lived alone which is not recommended). ECT should always be performed on an inpatient basis because of the potentially 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 in the early 2000s. 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 them himself. But 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.  Eric’s family -- including his sister Roxie, a retired U.S. Navy Captain, witnessed the entire situation and they back 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." To Eric’s family it appears this whole episode was handled just like the Catholic Church scandal, where dangerous pedophile priests were never fired, but just “reassigned” down the road to the next church, to destroy the lives of more innocent victims. Eric’s VA Fiduciary was never prosecuted or fired…just "reassigned." No money was ever returned to Eric. He received no compensation of any kind. 

At this point, Eric had enough of the Arizona VA, and relocated. He 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, this year, 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 at the beginning of this year.  

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. 

President Trump is trying to right these wrongs. He’s trying to help our American heroes - people just like Eric. He’s trying to save lives. He’s trying to fire the bad guys who allow 22 heroes (like Eric) a day to commit suicide due to incompetence, indifference, or pure criminal negligence.  

President Trump understands we can’t make America great again until we drain the VA swamp. Until we end this national disgrace of veteran addiction, homelessness, mental illness and suicide.  

That 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.

Wayne Allyn Root is a CEO, business owner, conservative commentator and best-selling conservative author. He is host of the nationally-syndicated “WAR Now: The Wayne Allyn Root Show.” For more, visit his website: www.ROOTforAmerica.com.