Veteran's suicide on VA grounds spurs calls for help

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Thomas Murphy took his own live on the property of the Phoenix VA administrative offices in Phoenix two weeks ago. (Source: Murphy family photo) Thomas Murphy took his own live on the property of the Phoenix VA administrative offices in Phoenix two weeks ago. (Source: Murphy family photo)
Veteran Mike Williams holds up a card during a gathering of veterans outside the VA Medical Center in Phoenix on Tuesday. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Veteran Mike Williams holds up a card during a gathering of veterans outside the VA Medical Center in Phoenix on Tuesday. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
VA whistleblower says the VA is understimating the number of veterans committing suicide every day. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) VA whistleblower says the VA is understimating the number of veterans committing suicide every day. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

The growing number of veteran suicides is an issue that took center stage at the VA Medical Center in Phoenix on Tuesday.

It has been a hot-button issue for veterans for a while, but in Phoenix it was magnified two weeks ago by the suicide of a veteran on VA property.

"I think he's a martyr for what he did," veteran Brandon Coleman said of Thomas Murphy, who tragically took his life while sitting in the parking lot of the VA administrative offices in downtown Phoenix.

"I believe it was a symbolic act and that he did it because he would want us to talk about it," Coleman said.

To spur that talk, a few dozen veterans gathered outside the Phoenix VA Hospital on Tuesday to protest what they say is a lack of help for suicidal veterans.

"It should be a serious wake-up call that he took his own life in the parking lot, you know, because he couldn't get the help that he needed," Palmer Miller said.

"Thanks for nothing VA," Murphy wrote in his suicide note. He blamed the VA for doing nothing to help him with his chronic pain and said the VA wanted to take away the pain medication he was receiving.

"They get denied and then they feel you know like nobody cares and it's just like I said a spiral downward," Louis Albin said.

The latest VA study shows 22 veterans a day commit suicide. But Coleman, a VA whistleblower who worked with suicidal vets, said the study left out statistics from California, Illinois and Texas and the totals are completely false.

"If they gave the American people the real numbers - 45, 50, 60, a day - would you let your kids join the military?" Coleman said.

"Absolutely it's higher than 22," he said. "They need to do an accurate study that includes all 50 states by someone outside of the VA.

VA officials say they've made changes since Coleman blew the whistle on issues with how suicidal veterans are treated at the emergency room at the Phoenix VA Hospital.

But Coleman and others say more needs to be done.

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