Jeremy Sears is the kind of combat veteran that America desperately wants to help — a Marine who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yet the safety net designed to support returning troops seems to have failed in his case, according to his wife and veterans advocates.
After waiting 16 months in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs claims logjam, Sears was denied all disability payments and, untreated for trauma injuries and facing financial difficulties, took his own life.
Jeremy and Tami Sears— Facebook photo
The 35-year-old former Camp Pendleton infantryman killed himself last week, almost exactly two years after being discharged. On Monday, Oct. 6, Sears went to an Oceanside shooting range and put the gun to his head.
Just days before, he first admitted to his wife that he might have “survivor’s guilt” — sometimes seen as a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder.
According to people close to him, Sears became despondent in February. That’s when the VA sent a letter saying that the government wouldn’t pay him anything, despite acknowledging that he had traumatic brain injury and hearing loss from his military service.
VA denial letter
Additionally, Sears never got medical help for the brain injury.
Jeremy Sears’ widow, Tami, said this week that she sees a failure in care starting years back, but climaxing under the VA.
“I just don’t want anyone else to suffer and go through the pain that my husband went through for so many years and didn’t tell anyone,” Tami Sears said.
“I don’t know what the VA needs to do, but they need an overhaul and to take care of these veterans.”
Officials from the San Diego VA health care system and VA regional benefits office put out a joint statement on Tuesday, in response to questions from U-T San Diego.
“The Department of Veterans Affairs deeply regrets the loss of veteran Jeremy Sears, and our sincere condolences go out to his family. VA wants to ensure that all veterans receive the benefits and health care to which they are entitled under the law,” the statement said.
“We are presently looking into the specifics of Mr. Sear’s case and will be reaching out to the family to provide support and assistance.”
Sears left the Marine Corps as a sergeant in October 2012 after eight years of service. His wife and friends said he knew staying in would likely mean a desk job, which he didn’t want.