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Rep. Zeldin Provides Update Following Suicide at Northport VA

August 27, 2016
Press Release

Patchogue, NY - Congresman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1), member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, released the following statement after receiving a written response from the Northport VA Director, Philip Moschitta, about the veteran suicide that occurred last weekend in a Northport VA parking lot. 

“The loss of even a single veteran in America due to suicide is one too much. Most unfortunately, throughout our country, every day 22 veterans take their own life. It is so important to have the best possible understanding as to why these suicides keep happening. For me personally, I have lost more people I know due to suicide than in combat. Our veterans are returning home feeling isolated and alone and feeling like their family, friends and colleagues at work don't understand what it is that they are going through. What is especially tragic, especially here in Suffolk County, is that a veteran will feel isolated and alone even though there are literally thousands of others throughout our county who would move heaven and earth to shower a veteran in need with love, appreciation and support.

While Peter Kaisen's death was clearly a suicide, it's also important to note that many veterans whose deaths are labeled a suicide weren't actually trying to kill themselves. PFC Joseph Dwyer's last words when he passed away in 2008 were "I don't want to die." He was looking for temporary relief to escape his pain, but he wasn't looking to leave behind a young widow and two year old daughter. PFC Dwyer is well known from an iconic photo from the start of the Iraq war that so many viewed all across America with Joe cradling a young Iraqi boy and helping him to safety. Joseph Dwyer returned home with the mental wounds of war. His legacy is remembered to this day through the creation of the PFC Joseph Dwyer Veterans Peer Support Program, which initially started in 4 counties in New York, including Suffolk, and now has spread to over a dozen counties across the state, including Nassau as well. This program creates a peer support setting where veterans are with other veterans and a trained mentor, which all serves as that important reminder that our nation's veterans shouldn't feel like they are alone. This program should be in every county in the United States. Losing one veteran as a result of suicide is unacceptable.
Immediately after hearing about last weekend's suicide at the Northport VA, I contacted Northport VA Director Philip Moschitta to share my very deep concerns and request whatever details he could share on the situation. A copy of his response is below. As investigations into this suicide continue, I will continue to aggressively stay on top of this situation. After serving our country, and making countless sacrifices to protect our freedoms and liberties, our veterans deserve only the highest quality of care. What is so incredibly important to me and for others is to identify any specific ways at all that this veteran was under served so that it can be immediately and completely corrected in order for something very positive to result from this very tragic event. Every time a veteran takes his or her own life, the system has failed. R.I.P. Peter Kaisen”

A copy of the letter from Director Moschitta can be read here: PDF icon8_26_16_Response from Northport VA Director Moschitta.pdf