WASHINGTON, D.C. - ‎U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) is today demanding answers from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) after failing to receive a response over her initial letters regarding the death of Mr. Brandon Ketchum of Bettendorf, Iowa. Mr. Ketchum, a 33 year old combat veteran, served two tours with the Marine Corps in Iraq, and a deployment to Afghanistan with the Army National Guard, was seeking mental health care from the Iowa City VA Medical Center. The VA allegedly turned him away and Mr. Ketchum tragically succumbed to suicide on July 8, 2016.

On July 15, 2016, Senator Ernst sent a personal letter to both VA Inspector General Michael Missal and VA Under Secretary for Health David Shulkin demanding answers as to why Mr. Ketchum was allegedly denied treatment, and expressing concern over the oversight and management of the Iowa City VA Medical Center if these allegations prove true.

Ernst wrote, “From both of you, I request an immediate and thorough investigation of the Iowa City VA Medical Center’s apparent failure or refusal to properly treat Mr. Ketchum.

Expanding recovery and coordination activities for patients with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as well as improving care management service, is something I fear is not happening quickly enough in Iowa’s VA system. I am deeply concerned that too little is being done to hold Veterans Integrated Service Network Directors accountable for providing comprehensive case management in accord with Veterans Heath Administration (VHA) policy.”

As a result, Senator Ernst today joined Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) in sending another letter to VA Inspector General Michael Missal to investigate why Mr. Ketchum was allegedly denied in patient assistance from the Iowa City VA Medical Center.

The Senators wrote, “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. 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.”   

Click here and here to read the letters Senator Ernst sent to VA Inspector General Michael Missal and VA Under Secretary for Health David Shulkin on July 15th.

Click here to read the letter Senators Ernst, Grassley, and Johnson sent to VA Inspector General Michael Missal on August 2nd.   

 

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