No solace for family of soldier who took own life
Published: August 12, 2011
One Army, Two Failures
Every day now it seems there’s another bit of unfinished business in the life of Army veteran Jacob Andrews, who committed suicide in April.
A few days ago, it was a notice that the state of Missouri wants to collect the cost of a surgery Andrews had as a 10-year-old when he was on Medicaid. Last week, it was a notice from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs certifying---without mentioning his death---that Andrews was eligible for the post-9/11 GI Bill.
Between the two came another VA letter, this one in response to an inquiry from the office of U.S. Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), denying responsibility for having erroneously told Andrews in November that he was ineligible for the GI Bill despite the year he spent fighting in Afghanistan.
Family and friends say that denial of his VA educational benefits was one of many things weighing on Andrews’ mind and pushing him toward hopelessness before he hanged himself in a wooded area near his parents’ home in April. The apparent problem was that while Andrews received a general discharge from the military after he committed a series of alcohol-infused acts of misconduct, which normally would have made him ineligible for the GI Bill, the Defense Department didn’t report to the VA that he had previously reenlisted, which meant he was in fact partially eligible.
Andrews’ misconduct, his family Army friends said, stemmed from problems he had dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Afghanistan. While military doctors never found he had PTSD, the VA diagnosed him within days after his discharge.
As outlined in a Stars and Stripes story in June, Andrews hanged himself in the early morning hours of Apr. 5 in a wooded area near his parents’ home in Kansas City, Mo. He left behind a pregnant girlfriend, and his mother, Lauri Turner, said this week she’d hoped that they’d be able to transfer his educational benefits to his son, who is due to be born in November.
But that’s not allowed under the rules, the VA said in its recent letter.
A servicemember can transfer educational benefits to his or her children, but only if he or she serves six years on active duty, makes the request while still in the military, and agrees to serve four more years afterward.The children of active-duty military members who were killed in action since 2009 can also receive their parents’ entitlement, under the Fry Scholarship amendment to the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
“Basically it says it’s not transferable because he didn’t request it,” Turner said. “Well, he can’t request it. He’s dead.”