Sick Navy Vet Tells Bernie Sanders: "I'm gonna kill myself" at Nevada Town Hall

CBS News
September 15, 2019 - 10:32 am

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In a dramatic moment caught on video, an ailing Navy veteran struggling to pay off his medical bills said he was contemplating suicide while speaking at a Bernie Sanders town hall in Carson City, Nevada. The veteran, named John, said Friday his Tricare was taken away, leaving him with more than $130,000 worth of medical bills.

"How are you going to pay it off?" Sanders asked the veteran.

"I can't, I can't. I'm gonna kill myself!" John responded.

The 2020 presidential hopeful stopped John and told him, "You're not going to kill yourself" and told him they would talk about his situation after the town hall.

In a video clip captured by CBS News' Cara Korte that has now gone viral, John told Sanders that he served 20 years in the Navy, including tours in Kuwait and Somalia.

"I saved lives. I was a Navy corpsman," he said. "We take care of our own except now. My Tricare is not acceptable anymore, they took it away."

The veteran said he suffers from Huntington's disease, a genetic disorder that causes the breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. According to the National Institutes of Health, there is no treatment for the disease. 

"I have Huntington's disease, I'm in Stage IV," he said. "I can barely take care of myself, and I do not have the energy to fight these people."

After hearing the vet's heart-wrenching story, Sanders said, "I wish that I could say that what John just described is unique and that he is the only person in America who undergoes that, but it's not. So John, we'll talk about it after the meeting, and we'll see what we can do about it."

About 20 veterans take their lives every day in America, or 6,000 a year.  A hotline launched in 2007 has answered more than 3.5 million calls, sending emergency help to nearly 100,000 people.

For immediate help if you are in a crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All calls are confidential.