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Vet Freezes to Death Days After VA Hospital Visit

'I need help,' admitting records at Iowa facility show Richard Miles said
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2015 11:00 AM CDT
Vet Freezes to Death Days After VA Hospital Visit
Stock photo   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – When Richard Miles went to a VA hospital in Des Moines on Feb. 15, he told the admitting staff that he needed help. After the 40-year-old Iraq war veteran was diagnosed with "worsened PTSD," as well as insomnia and anxiety, the hospital gave him meds and told him to touch base with his psychiatrist for an appointment, CNN reports. Instead, Miles' body was found in the woods five days after the hospital visit; he had ingested a " toxic amount of sleeping pills" that wasn't necessarily lethal—but exposure to the elements was, per a toxicology report CNN acquired. "The VA failed him," says ex-girlfriend Katie Hopper, who's also mom to Miles' daughter.

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The hospital was a familiar one: Miles had been hospitalized there four times for PTSD between 2008 and 2009 after two "attempts to hang himself," records indicate. The VA tells CNN that Miles had gone through proper hospital protocol and that he was "given anxiety and insomnia medication upon his departure from the emergency room—medication he indicated had helped him in the past." Dr. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, a career Army psychiatrist, says it's tough to blame the hospital, given that Miles' past suicide attempts were at least six years ago, he had refuted feeling suicidal, and doctors "can't read people's minds." But as CNN asks, "If proper procedures were indeed followed, are VA procedures in dealing with suicidal veterans adequate?" (Read more Iowa stories.)

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