RALEIGH, NC – A veteran who took his own life in the parking lot of the Durham VA hospital was in struggling to get his benefits.
Veterans are promised care in return for serving our country, but many veterans say getting their financial support is incredibly challenging.
63-year-old Paul Shuping was found in the parking lot by Durham VA police.
“He tried to do things the right way and it just didn’t work,” his brother Donald explained.
It took five days before police found Paul in his car.
“He was in a seldom used area of the parking lot in a corner,” said Donald.
The veteran served 6 years in the United States Navy. Donald says the care this veteran got at the Durham VA was great, but he was battling emotional issues, depression, and PTSD and had just found out he was denied his veteran benefits.
“He had gotten partial benefits, and he found out that Wednesday that he went missing that he would not be getting full benefits because of a paperwork error. Had he been a little patient, we don’t think it would have taken a lot longer to get them but he had been waiting, struggling emotionally and financially for quite some time,” Donald said.
Donald says it wasn’t until after his brother’s death that realized Paul wasn’t alone in his struggle.
“Since Paul’s death I’ve come into contact with a lot of veterans and had no idea how difficult it was for them to get their rightful disability benefits,” he explained.
James Alston was with Paul hours before he died.
“That was the last time I talked to him and it hurt me to my heart,” Alston said.
Alston runs the Triangle Veterans Wellness Outreach Center and devotes almost any time of the day to meeting with veterans, helping them get their benefits.
“It’s a very difficult process,” Alston said, “I’m a living example of it. I retired in 1993 and I started from there on and it took me until 2010 before I was able to get my full disability.”
Alston says the system has improved but what veterans need is local support.
“They spend millions and millions of dollars on suicide prevention but it doesn’t reach down to boots on the ground,” said Alston.
Every day 20 veterans take their own lives. That’s according to a report from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
North Carolina has the 8th highest veteran population with 673,384, according to a 2014 report by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Durham VA released a statement saying:
The loss of one Veteran by suicide is one loss too many, and we offer our sincere condolences to the family of this Veteran. We urge any Veteran who is in crisis to reach out for help. Call the Durham VA suicide prevention coordinator at (919) 899-6259 ext. 1026 or contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Also, they offer support by online at www.veteranscrisisline.net or by text message at 838255.
The memorial service for Paul Shuping is scheduled for Saturday, March 11 at 11 a.m. at the American Legion Post 7 at 406 E Trinity Avenue in Durham.