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Content warning: self-harm and suicide.

First, it is important that if you are in a crisis, please call 988. There are trained operators standing by every hour of every day of the year. If you are a veteran, there are also specially-trained operators at that same number. After you have dialed 988, you can dial 1. Or you can chat with the Veterans Crisis Line here:

It is a tragedy when any person takes their own life.

In this particular case, it is perhaps more so and it was also perhaps preventable. On October 10, 2023, a veteran, William G. Grant, walked into the H. John Heinz III VA Medical Center in Pittsburgh, PA, with a gun. He then proceeded to take his own life.

At this time, it is unclear precisely why he did so.

It is unfair to characterize all veterans as having PTSD and being suicidal. According to one study, 7 out of 100 veterans will have PTSD, whereas 6 out 100 non-veterans will have PTSD. That's a smaller difference than many people thought. That said, more veterans who use the VA medical system have PTSD than veterans who do not use the VA system, and, PTSD or not, veterans are 1.5 times as likely to die by suicide than non-veterans.

We do not know what public safety measures were in place at this VA. For example, different VAMC's have different means of preventing individuals from bringing weapons into VA buildings. Some have nothing more than signs communicating that firearms and other weapons are prohibited. It is likely VA could have done more to prevent Mr. Grant from bringing a firearm into the hospital, though whether or not that would have ultimately prevented his suicide is unknown.

We also do not know whether Mr. Grant was receiving psychiatric treatment at the Heinz VAMC and whether he had expressed thoughts of suicide to his healthcare providers. If he had expressed thoughts of suicide to his VA healthcare providers, then its possible that they could have done more to prevent this particular tragedy.

In other words, there are a number of ways the Heinz VAMC and the VA as a whole may have failed Mr. Grant. If they should and could have done something to prevent his suicide, but failed to, then they can be sued.

Mr. Grant's death is a tragedy under any circumstances. If VA could have prevented his death, then it is also an injustice.


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