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Veteran Suicide - Australia

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Hello everyone.

The following is a news item I cut and pasted from a newspaper website in Melbourne Australia.

I have proberly broken some copywrite law so please forgive me.

This is a sad and tragic.


"THE Department of Veterans Affairs will overhaul security after a disturbed veteran walked in and shot himself dead yesterday in front of shocked office staff.

The Vietnam veteran took the lift to the 14th floor of the DVA building in La Trobe St, entered a public foyer about 1pm and sat for 15 minutes before pulling out a gun.

Mr Heffernan was known to have made threats to DVA staff.

Counter staff of the Veterans Affairs Network and others who may have feared for their lives later received counselling.

Det-Sgt Paul Payne said a report was being prepared for the Coroner, who visited the scene.

Upset mates of the veteran, Michael John Heffernan, 62, said that his death was tragically unsurprising after other veteran suicides.

Mr Heffernan, of Lara, was known to local Vietnam Veterans Association official Kevin Bate as a "really nice bloke, but troubled".

"He was on a knife edge and it wasn't his fault," Mr Bate said.

"We don't believe the DVA handled this very well, nowhere near sensitively enough.

"They knew he was not a mentally well man. The fact is the tightness of government money had driven this man to an extreme act; the same government he once put his life on the line for."

Mr Heffernan had been in Vietnam in 1968 with 4RAR as an infantryman, then an army regular, and later took a job as a prison officer at Barwon.

Mr Bate said Mr Heffernan retired about 2000 after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome, which made him eligible for the top-rate totally and permanently incapacitated pension.

But DVA officials cut back his TPI pension after he received a large disability payment from the Office of Corrections.

Fellow prison officers said Mr Heffernan had been deeply disturbed after thinking a surprise exercise in which a female guard was "taken hostage" by inmates was real.

"It wasn't a good thing to have happen to a Vietnam vet," a source said.

He spent months off work afterwards and won the compensation claim in the late 1990s.

Former colleagues yesterday remembered him as a respected member of the prison staff. "Mick was a real good guy with a history of service to his country," one said.

Mr Bate said after Mr Heffernan's TPI pension was cut, he had written to and lobbied every DVA officer he could find.

"The DVA was far too officious. They were technically correct but they were dealing with a man who needed real compassion and care," he said.

Mr Heffernan was separated from his wife and family. His brother, Shane, declined to comment.

A DVA source said officers referred Mr Heffernan to counselling and he had at least one visit to the psychiatric ward at Heidelberg Hospital.

"He was never ignored," the source said.

Vietnam Veterans Association state president Bob Elworthy said it was a tragedy for everyone.

"There's a close trust between the veterans community and DVA," Mr Elworthy said.

"That's why you can walk in, but security will have to be looked at."

There is usually one security guard in the 14th floor foyer, but there are no checks in the building lobby or lift.

A security pass is needed for other DVA floors.

Veterans Affairs Minister Bruce Billson gave his condolences to Mr Heffernan's family."
I'd just like to point out that this article shows the DVA are apparently more worried about their security than the fact that their insensitivy triggered this poor guy to shoot himself.

They say "security needs to be looked at", what about their procedures for dealing with their customers!!!!!
It doesn't surprise me one bit. We do what we do for our countries, we do it voluntarily, but when we need help, DVA do shit on us and make our lives extremely difficult to get financial support. Veterans get an option to basically take a lump sum or pension, most opt for the pension, but then DVA just make it near impossible to achieve with PTSD, as they tie one up in so much red tape and paperwork until we just say "f*ckit" and give up trying.
"He was never ignored," the source said.
The "source" is an outright liar, and I know that without any details. DVA had nothing to do with his hospitalization, that would be his shrink that did that. DVA think they are doing the right thing by giving us cheaper medication benefits, but say screw you, we no longer want to support you.

Myself, I had a bit of bullshit to get through, but nothing compared to most, as they had nowhere to turn with me, no excuses, as I entered the military fit and healthy, and left the military fit and healthy, apart from the mental illness of PTSD, so they had nothing to fight against. Many get caught up in claiming for every single little bump and knock they get within the military, all of which DVA use against them. DVA have now even gone to the extremes of using previous family history against current veterans, ie. if a parent suffers PTSD or is a veteran, then they are claiming that that parent caused their PTSD, or impacted it, not the operational deployment. I kid you not.

Thanks for posting that Socks.
Hello everyone.

I would like to comment further on this tragic incident.

To Mr. Heffernan’s family, you have my respect and sympathy.

The cynic in me can’t help but feel that the staff at the Department of Veterans Affairs are now lining up to claim any compensation available, even the staff that weren’t there.

Don’t get me wrong, some of these staff members who actually witnessed the final act of a desperate man pushed to his limit by a cruel and heartless bureaucracy will be traumatized and affected for years to come and deserve all help possible. Given time, some of these people may well end up on this forum.

I can’t help but think that these very people that fought so hard to deny Mr. Heffernan his rightful compensation will now be subject to the same bureaucratic process that they subjected Mr. Heffernan too.

I can see it now.

Ms X applies to the compensation board only to be told by some nameless and faceless bureaucrat, can you prove this “actually happened†and are you sure it’s not all in you’re mind. Now come on Ms X, says the bureaucrat, you were in another room, you can’t possible been affected.

Ms X, after due consideration, we the compensation board feel that while you may or may not have experience a tragic trauma, we feel that this trauma you may or may not have experience is not sever enough to warranty any compensation and treatment.

And Ms X, please feel free to follow the appeal process. Have a nice day Ms X and don’t let the door hit you in the a**e as you leave.

I can’t help but feel that while the whole episode is tragic, it is poetic justice.


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