Vet who was told to wait over a month for treatment at VA takes his own life

An Iraq War vet from Des Moines, Iowa, who was seeking treatment, took his own life shortly after being turned away by the VA.

Friends say Curtis Gearhart was beloved by many and it seemed to most that the 32-year-old former combat engineer wasn’t having trouble transitioning to civilian life.

However his girlfriend told WHO-TV that over the last six months or so, he’d been feeling depressed over the loss of fellow soldiers in Iraq and seemed to be racked with guilt over it.

In April, he posted a chilling message on Facebook which read:  “High high’s, and low low’s.  I wish my life had a middle ground.” Curtis had been suffering from PTSD.

Two months ago, he started having recurring headaches and was told by the local VA that he’d have to wait 5 to 6 weeks before they could see them.

“They send these soldiers over so young to fight these wars and then they don’t live up to their promises of taking care of them when they come home,” said girlfriend Valesca Steffens.

Valesca says Curtis was worried that help from an outside provider would have been too expensive. She believes Curtis would still be alive today if the VA didn’t wait so long to treat him.

“He wanted help.  He wouldn’t have gone if he didn’t,” she said.

Valesca says she found out she was pregnant shortly before burying the love of her life. The news was bittersweet– she told the local NBC station.

Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) says she will personally look into what happened in Curtis’s case with the VA. She’s looking into another similar case involving Brandon Ketchum, a Marine who served 2 tours and sought in-patient help at the VA in Iowa City, but took his own life in July while waiting for a response.

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  • Michele graduated with a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has spent numerous years working in the news industry in south Florida, including many positions ranging from being a news writer at WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami to being an associate news producer at WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami. Michele has also worked in Public Relations and Marketing.

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