Family of veteran who died by suicide at VA Hospital mourns, calls for change

The family of an Iraq War veteran who died by suicide in the parking lot of the VA Hospital in Minneapolis is speaking out.

Congressional hearings have already started to determine what went wrong after the Forest Lake native asked for help with his post-traumatic stress disorder.

The family says if another veteran can be saved by this report, their pain will all be worth it.

They feel the hospital in Minneapolis is not equipped to deal with the massive amount of veterans with PTSD.

“My brother wasn’t a mistake he was talented and smart and hardworking he deserved better than this,” said Alissa Harrington.

Harrington and her father struggle to hold back the tears as they remember Justin Miller, a loving son and younger brother, who tragically took his own life in February of this year.

 “The day that he went into crisis I met with him. He said, ‘Don’t worry dad, don’t try to help, I can take care of this, I’m going to get help,” said Gregory Miller. 

The 34-year-old had been struggling with PTSD since he returned from Iraq in 2005 where he served in the Marines.

“He tried best he could, he did what everyone told him to do. The problem was that the other people weren’t doing what they were supposed to be doing,” said Miller.

Justin sought help at the VA hospital in Minneapolis and 24 hours after he was discharged with no follow up care directions, he committed suicide in the parking lot.

A review of Justin’s care at the VA was ordered by Rep. Tim Walz's office and, this week, a bombshell of a report was released.

“It was very hard to read the report and see in black and white the places where they asked him the same questions so many times over and either didn’t report it or got different answers,” said Harrington.

The report says the treatment team failed to manage medication follow-up procedures, did not educate Justin on access to firearms and never provided suicide behavior report training to clinical staff.

Justin was a trumpet player and played in the Marines Corps Band, he was funny, loving and selfless.

“Served his country well but when it came right down to it they didn’t serve him so well,” Miller said.

His family is sharing their story because they know so many veterans share Justin’s pain.

“This should be the last time the VA leaves a soldier behind,” Harrington said.