The body of a 63-year-old Navy veteran was discovered in the parking garage of a North Carolina VA facility six days after he took his own life.
On Feb. 15, Paul Shuping used a .22-caliber rifle to kill himself inside a parked car at the Durham Veteran Affairs Medical Center after the VA’s recent decision to deny him full disability benefits, NBC affiliate WRAL reported Monday.
James Alston of the Triangle Veterans Outreach Center said he helped Shuping through a two-year process to obtain partial disability benefits, but the VA’s decision to deny him full benefits was the last straw.
“I really think he was trying to send a message for all veterans who are crying out for help,” Mr. Alston said.
Shuping’s brother, Donald, said he thinks the benefits process played a role in his brother’s suicide but stopped short of blaming the Durham VA hospital.
“He tried to do things the right way, and it just didn’t work,” Donald told CBS affiliate WNCN. “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.”
“To the VA’s benefit, I think he received excellent care,” Donald told WRAL.
Sharonda Pearson, a spokeswoman for the Durham VA, said Shuping’s body was discovered “during one of our many daily patrols.”
She didn’t explain why it took so long to find the body, but Donald said his brother chose “a seldom used area” of the parking garage to take his own life.
“The loss of one veteran by suicide is one loss too many,” Ms. Pearson said in a statement. “This veteran volunteered many hours to our animal therapy program and was well known and beloved by Durham VA staff.”
Shuping is among the estimated 20 veterans who commit suicide in the country each day, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
His memorial service is scheduled for Saturday at the American Legion Post 7 in Durham.