Texas VA Clinic

AUSTIN, TX (KWTV/ KCTV) -- A Veterans Affairs clinic in Texas shutdown Tuesday after a man killed himself in its waiting room.

Witnesses at the clinic say hundreds of people saw the man shoot himself.

Weapons are not allowed in the VA but the facility relies on random bag searches, and does not have metal detectors.

Health officials estimate one in every five veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffers from PTSD. For Vietnam veterans, it's one in three.

And even though treatment is available, it is not always easy to get.

"There's a scheduling problem,” says counselor Jack Swope. “Part of it is a matter of accessibility. Getting there, and frankly, part of it is a matter of finances and costs."

Swope says familiarity with weapons and access to firearms puts veterans at increased risk.

Government statistics show 530 vets in Texas killed themselves in 2016. That's twice the number in the general population.

McLennan County Veteran’s Service Officer Steve Hernandez said the veteran was a patient who had been enrolled in the Phoenix program at the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Medical Center in Temple and was discharged, but somehow his case was transferred to the Austin facility.

“When he found out he couldn’t get the help he needed there, he chose to take his own life,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez said the underlying problem with the VA system currently is “there is no facility in the state or in the country dedicated to serving veterans with mental health issues.

“What’s going on is concerning and the actions undertaken so far speak for themselves,” Hernandez said, but the lack of a VA mental health treatment facility, which the Waco campus used to be, is critically important.

According to 2016 study by the VA, there are 20 veteran suicides a day. Of those, 14 are not under VA care.

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