Suicide, Disabled Veteran Father Leaves Family Scrambling, Can VA Do More?

Joshua Merrill

The family of a disabled veteran who died from suicide took to GoFundMe to cover cremation and memorial costs two weeks ago.

“Joshua Merrill recently passed away on January 5, 2023 due to suicide. This was sudden and unexpected to the many who knew him. Josh, 40, was a disabled US Veteran who struggled like many others. He leaves behind 4 beautiful children and his mother.”

The veteran’s mother hopes donations to GoFundMe will cover cremation and memorial costs. Any extra money will be donated to the veterans four children.

Organized by Jessica Gaspar and Elizabeth Harabedian, the GoFundMe exceeded the goal of $5,010, but it is strongly likely more money will be needed. The veteran’s four children are now left without a father to help with support costs that will far eclispe the $5,000 sought.

According to the request for funds:

We are so thankful for the gift of his life and the time he spent with us. Friends and neighbors have all commented on what a caring and generous heart he had.

So many have already reached out and asked how to help, so we’re currently asking for donations in Josh’s honor to help cover the cost of his cremation and memorial services.

We want to support his family during this difficult time, and help his mother by offsetting the high cost of funeral expenses and other final costs.

Please consider donating if you can-any amount will truly help. If you cannot donate, please feel free to share this fundraiser with others. Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity.

Note: all money raised will be going to his mother, to assist with all after life expenses. If there is any extra, it will be used to create memorial tokens for his children.

Co-worker Gabriel Renteria called Merrill a “gentle soul” who “will be missed”. Her comment on the GoFundMe suggested Merrill did not connect well with co-workers, much like many struggling veterans.

New VALife Insurance

Shortly after Merrill passed, news media began circulating that the Department of Veterans Affairs released a new insurance program to help with increased costs of life insurance due to a veteran’s disability rating at the start of the new year.

Little was known about this new program until last week, though VA sent out a news release December 1, 2022. The new program, VALife, is a whole life program providing coverage up to $40,000. All veterans regardless of disability under 80 years of age would qualify.

“All Veterans deserve to know that their families will have financial support when they pass away,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “VALife is a critical step toward making that goal a reality, helping VA provide more life insurance to more Veterans than ever before in our nation’s history.”

According to VA, “The policy will build cash value after the first two years of coverage when the face value goes into effect. If a Veteran passes away during this two-year waiting period, the named beneficiary will receive all premiums paid plus interest.”

For years, veterans could receive a waiver for life insurance payments under Service -Disabled Veterans Insurance (S-DVI) with a 100% rating, but S-DVI is no longer available as of January 1.

On Merrill’s suicide, given the little we know about him and his circumstance, he was a father with challenges due to damage from his military experience. If his disabilities were severe enough to result in suicide.

Death Benefits For Veterans

If Merrill received the disability and health care he deserved, his mother would not need to beg for money to cover his death costs, and his children would not be without support.

With an appropriate 100% rating, assuming the veteran was paid into Social Security, the children would receive monthly support of $1,000 per month each plus VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and health insurance (CHAMPVA) until 18.

Let’s hope VA dealt with Merrill honestly while he was alive providing him with a rating fairly commensurate with his disabilities from service.

If not, Merrill’s kids would be without $5,000 per month in benefits from VA and Social Security.

The new life insurance program amount would at least cover the death costs, but VA would have veteran pay into the program. But, as we’ve seen over the years, is it time VA simply pick up the tab for all disabled veterans?

You break it, you buy it, whether you die in service or some years down the road when the burden of service becomes too great.

VA can do more. It could create an automatic life insurance benefit that at least covers the premium for at least the cost of a death benefit for veterans like Merrill.

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8 Comments

  1. This is misrepresentation. Leaving out important details such as new releases, toxicological and that he was an active shooter who shot multiple driving vehicles in a community is misrepresentation.

    Without full acknowledging what he did, how can you really help fight ptsd.

    Was it ptsd or an excuse?

    Protecting veterans with ptsd, it starts here. No one should be making assumptions without evidence.

  2. I guess the family didn’t know that the v.a. will dispose of the body at no cost. They did take care of my father’s remains who only served 4 years of which was partly during the Korean War. Cremation, memorial service and a plaque with his branch of service, name, time served and war designation. My father never set foot in Korea nor left the united states of the americas due to a bad ear, he was not eligible for overseas duty. Died in 2020 of natural causes.

  3. As of 17 January 2023: American veterans struggling with suicidal thoughts are now eligible for free emergency medical care. The Department of Veterans Affairs announced in a news release Friday that all veterans can receive emergency suicide care at its facilities starting Tuesday.
    Now that being said that is IF you really and truly believe that the VA is trustworthy and trust they are capable of treating or helping veterans then by all means see them. I from first hand experience of my dealings with the VA is that they are totally incompetent, untrustworthy and for certain have no intelligent knowledge of how to treat Veterans with PTSD so why should anything be different for suicide. The latest is that the bureaucrats running the institution are overriding VA Doctors decisions on the medical treating Veterans to ave MONEY.

  4. Some VA doctors treatment Veterans poorly, very condescending and stick together. Other doctors are very good. I’ll bet these poorly and condescending doctors have 10 times the suicide patients and for some reason it is overlooked.

  5. I wish it could have been different. Primary care doctors are a prime cause for these suicides. Were I not as poised as I am from my military training during the Vietnam war I probably would have committed suicide. One primary care doctor Ukiah CA is so incompetently making mistakes that I am stunned that he is still with VA. He is a coward and he left me on the battlefield, so to speak. I suspect that this soldier’s suicide is caused by VA primary care doctors who did the same thing to him that they do to me. Specialty Clinic doctors are great except mental health. Patient advocates are no more than little sociology majors, which is one of the most dismal soft sciences discipline of the bunch. Patient advocates merely are primary care doctors’ mouthpieces, puppets. Read the stories whose headlines describe the soldier veteran at the VA when he/she commits suicide. These soldiers want to make a statement by doing so; the VA is the cause. Yet, VA still ignores causes, incompetent and cowardly primary care doctors.

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