Report: No Wrongdoing by VA in Des Moines Veteran’s Death

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Results from an investigation into veteran Richard Miles’ mental care were released Wednesday.

Senator Joni Ernst  requested the investigation after Miles was found dead in Water Works Park in February. The Office of Inspector General reviewed allegations regarding poor mental health care resulting in a Miles’ death at the VA Central Iowa Health Care System in Des Moines.

The Office of Healthcare Inspections reported that they found no documentation that Miles had requested long term mental health services or that his clinical condition would have warranted admission at that time.

“The facility appeared to be substantially in compliance with its policy regarding time frames for consult completion. The patient did not experience a delay in obtaining mental health services, as he had not requested these services in the 2 years prior to his winter 2015 Emergency Department visit,” the report states.

Miles was not contacted by the local recovery coordinator because his name did not appear on the list of seriously mentally ill patients. Only patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychoses are considered seriously mentally ill. Miles, however, had anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder but had never been diagnosed as seriously mentally ill.

On February 15, Miles entered the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Des Moines and told the staff: “I need help,” according to hospital records.

He had told friends he was going to check himself in. He was diagnosed with “worsened PTSD,” anxiety and insomnia, but Miles was not admitted to the hospital.

Five days later the 40-year-old father was found dead in the woods, having taken a toxic amount of sleeping pills, according to a toxicology report. He died from exposure to the elements.

Ernst submitted the request to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs in February. The review was expected to be done in March.

Just last week Ernst told Channel 13 that she was still awaiting the results. Ernst said the report should have been a simple process and expected the results by April. The VA IG pushed it back to May.

“My staff reached out again this week and as of this morning, I still have no results from that investigation. It is frustrating, disappointing and unacceptable that this have taken so long,” said Ernst last Wednesday.

In the report, the Office of Healthcare Inspections made two recommendations, according to the report:

1. We recommended that the Interim Under Secretary for Health determine the feasibility and advisability of expanding recovery coordination activities to patients with post-traumatic stress disorder.

2. We recommended that the Veterans Integrated Service Network Director ensure that the VA Central Iowa Health Care System Director provides all levels of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom case management services in accordance with Veterans Health Administration policy.

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