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Iowa Senators tour VA Hospital

By Mark Stevens

IOWA CITY, Iowa. (KWQC) – Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst toured the Iowa City V.A. Hospital Friday. The tour comes in response to the suicide of a Quad City veteran who said he was denied care in July shortly before taking his own life.

The senators said they’re learning how the Iowa City V.A. System works so they can adopt any recommendations from a special investigation. Both senators asked the V.A. Inspector General to look into the suicide of Sgt. Brandon Ketchum. He sought care from the hospital on July 7th, asking to be checked into the psych ward. Records released by his family show he was told the psych ward was full and that the care he sought could be served on an outpatient basis. Ketchum left and took his own life hours later.

The V.A. did not allow media to attend the tour with the senators. The V.A. also banned the media from being on its property. The senators met with reporters when they were finished with their tour in a separate University of Iowa building.

The senators said they met with top administrators, asked questions, and learned more about the policies and the procedures the V.A. uses. They told reporters they didn’t get into many specifics about Ketchum’s death because they don’t want to interfere in the inspector general’s investigation. However both senators want the hospital held accountable and procedures changed if Ketchum’s death could have been prevented.

Senator Joni Ernst said, “As soon as possible after a thorough investigation so if there are issues in the system or how veterans are treated when they come in with suicidal ideations then we make sure they are receiving assistance.”

Senator Chuck Grassley said, “How much pressure do you bring on an individual to be instituted, to be institutionalized or to get service that maybe they don’t think they want?”

Ernst said no timeline has been set for the inspector general to complete its investigation, but she said they’ve been told to get it done quickly.

A V.A. suicide study released this summer shows, on average, 20 veterans commit suicide daily.