Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Suicide Highlights Need for Reform ; Bureaucracy Seeks to Benefit Federal

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Suicide Highlights Need for Reform ; Bureaucracy Seeks to Benefit Federal

Article excerpt

What does a suffering military veteran have to do to force an unresponsive government to change its ways? How about self- immolating in front of his VA clinic? Hello, paper-pushers and desk jockeys? Are you there? Would the heat, the smoke and the smell of burning flesh rouse you in the least?

Nope. Apparently, even this horror is not enough to move the inert bureaucrats at the Department of Veterans Affairs let alone the indifferent tango dancer-in-chief.

While President Obama sashayed in Buenos Aires two weeks ago, proud Navy veteran Charles Richard Ingram III, 51, made his last lifes journey. He walked nine miles from his home in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, to the curb in front of the Northfield, New Jersey, VA clinic on New Road.

With a large blue wooden cross looming on the side of a chapel in the background, Ingram stood on the lawn, poured gas all over his body and lit a match. A firefighter told The Daily Beast that the retired chief petty officer, known as Rich to family and friends, was 100 percent burned. A bystander had rushed to his side with blankets to snuff out the flames and first responders arrived within minutes.

But it was too late.

CPO Ingram leaves behind a grieving wife, two young children, ages 3 and 5, and a charred patch of brown and blackened grass 75 feet from the entrance of the VAs Atlantic County Community Based Outpatient Clinic.

The bloated VA system now employs nearly 400,000 people to carry out its purported mission of caring. The CBOCs were established to more efficiently and effectively serve eligible veterans and provide care in the most appropriate setting, according to the feds. But nobody from Ingrams CBOC one of 800 such offices run by the VA, which boasts a record $150 billion budget was there to help on that Saturday when Ingram perished.

Why not? Because the facility is closed on weekends. Its daytime, weekday hours (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) serve the convenience of the government employees, not of the men and women who put their lives on the line for their country.

Area veterans advocates and local officials in both political parties have pushed for years to address chronic understaffing and Soviet-era wait times. …

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