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VA hospital arrests common

Trespassing among top charges, authorities say

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It's a "pretty common occurrence" for veterans to be arrested at the hospital where they seek treatment, authorities say.

Air Force veteran Edward "Dread" Smith, arrested in 2008, is one of them.

Smith said his electric wheelchair, which the VA supplied, malfunctioned and hit a pillar at the Uptown Division in 2007. The charging document said he "willfully and unlawfully" caused the damage.

Besides two counts of damaging government property, he was charged with simple assault after being accused of running over a man's foot.

The document also says Smith told a man he had killed nine people and buried them in 55-gallon drums. If the man wasn't careful, he would be next, Smith said, according to the document. Smith denies saying that.

The charges were dropped in 2010 because Smith's behavior "has improved greatly and he has conducted himself in a respectful and civilized manner when interacting with medical staff and other patients," according to the prosecution's petition to dismiss the charges.

Other charges involving veterans don't reach the federal level.

Two weeks ago, a 67-year-old homeless Vietnam veteran was arrested at the downtown VA hospital on a charge of criminal trespass.

Johnny Glasker said he came for an appointment Tuesday, then was told he couldn't linger on the property.

When Glasker returned to talk with his friends, he was told a warrant was out for his arrest.

Glasker said the VA provided him a hotel room for the night and transportation to his appointment in the morning. He wasn't seen until late in the day, however. The hotel room was a one-night deal, so Glasker waited outside for someone to pick him up.

That's when the warrant was activated and Glasker was arrested by Richmond County deputies.

Maj. Gene Johnson, who oversees Richmond County jails, said veteran arrests at the VA are a "pretty common occurrence." Most are on charges of disorderly conduct or criminal trespass, he said.

Robin Brown, the acting public affairs officer for the VA Medical Center, said people who refuse to leave the property can be considered loiterers.

"If their actions reach the point of disrupting the medical center mission of providing medical treatment, our police officers can determine the most appropriate judicial charges for the conduct," Brown said in an e-mail.

Brown said that while the VA is federal property, it has a concurrence jurisdiction, which means both local and federal laws can be exercised.

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OhWell
326
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OhWell 05/30/11 - 07:45 am
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Has the VA ever considered

Has the VA ever considered that most of these veterans do not drive and have to depend on Public Transportation or a ride to pick them up. Arresting those that have served our country just because the Loiter for a while seems pretty rash in my opinion. Some of these veterans are dealing with emotional and mental problems as well. I am proud to know my tax dollars are being spent this way. NOT!

mtxbass1
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mtxbass1 05/30/11 - 09:20 am
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OhWell, the VA very much does

OhWell, the VA very much does consider this. They don't just arrest people for loitering. MANY veterans have appointments early in the morning and also later in the day and there are no issues with them staying around the property to wait on another appointment. They become an issue after they repeatedly ask other people in the hospital for money, or, after being told to leave an area they do not. These instances are rare...

happychimer
16818
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happychimer 05/30/11 - 09:28 am
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shameful

shameful

Riverman1
82158
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Riverman1 05/30/11 - 09:55 am
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I believe every VA hospital

I believe every VA hospital should have an area set aside for veterans waiting all day for appointments where they can wait without being considered loitering. The waiting area should provide snacks and show them courtesy. Many of these people are borderline able to get around, travel far distances and arrive early. Going to the hospital is an event for them. Putting these people in jail, wheelchairs and all, is simply not right and has to stop.

OhWell
326
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OhWell 05/30/11 - 10:49 am
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mtxbass1 nothing is said in

mtxbass1 nothing is said in the article about veterans asking for money. That puts a little different light on things but I encounter people everyday begging coming to my door or approaching me while I am walking my dog. Some of that is the economic times in which we live.

corgimom
31079
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corgimom 05/30/11 - 11:51 am
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The VA has better things to

The VA has better things to do than to call the police on quiet, well-behaved people that are under control and not bothering anybody or anything. And they don't.

Anyone that thinks that someone is normal when they talk about killing 9 people and burying them in 55-gallon drums, and that someone else might be next- well.......

Giving them a waiting area and feeding them snacks has nothing to do with that kind of behavior.

A whole lot of the clients of the VA are drunks and drug addicts, and people that are just plain badly behaved, and their behavior is disrespectful and disruptive and interferes with other people's rights. Being a veteran does not give someone a life-long pass to engage in criminal and inappropriate behavior in public.

Going to the VA should not mean having to deal with criminals, drunks, or panhandlers. What about the right of the OTHER veterans to have a peaceful, normal, high-quality visit at the VA?

Sick, elderly people and their family members don't want to deal with that, and they shouldn't have to.

Augusta resident
1368
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Augusta resident 05/30/11 - 12:00 pm
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I've said it before. Some

I've said it before. Some Vets work the system. If you don't do 20 years and retire you pretty much don't have a retirement plan. Some do the 180 days active duty and want Uncle Sam to carry them the rest of their life. I put them in the same boat as young moochers that get our social security money. There are hundreds of thousands of Vets that do the right thing. It was easier to serve my country than to get a VA loan for my house because of all these mooching parasites.

OhWell
326
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OhWell 05/30/11 - 12:24 pm
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The article did not list any

The article did not list any of the issues Augusta resident and corgimon stated. What is the real story AC are you once again giving us half of the story? If they have mental health issues treat them in an insolated area. Yes vets work the system and so do panhandlers calling themselves Christians. We do not call the cops everytime someone approaches us for money do we.

TheGeorgian
408
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TheGeorgian 05/30/11 - 10:37 pm
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I haven't seen any of these

I haven't seen any of these loiterers around the VA facilities....except for myself and I wasn't arrested. Eye clinic doctors are great but appointment scheduling ISN'T too cool. The last 4 eye appointments I had went like this;
1st-seen by doctor 3 hours AFTER appointment time
2nd-seen by doctor on time
3rd-seen by doctor 3+ hours after appointment time
4th-seen one and a half hours after the appointment time

Not too cool. Oh, and a revelation to those who do not know....the VA bills insurance providers or Medicare, as the case may be. Do not be so swift to class all veterans receiving care as freeloaders. It's not Welfare.

gailkaitschuck
18
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gailkaitschuck 05/31/11 - 08:22 am
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It's always useful for the

It's always useful for the media to double check the accuracy of statements prior to publication.

VietVet
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VietVet 05/31/11 - 10:57 pm
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Good point on checking facts.

Good point on checking facts. The VA Hospital belongs to the Vets. Some Vets take that literally and behave in ways that are shameful and disrespectful.

fftaz71
108
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fftaz71 06/01/11 - 10:20 pm
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Corgimom...normally I find

Corgimom...normally I find myself agreeing with you, but this time I have to disagree. The Uptown VA is both a nursing home and a psych facility. Many of the people in the Uptown VA have long term PTSD or other mental illnesses...its shameful to say that their behavior is disrespectful and disruptive when their problems arose because of their service to our country. People with mental illness cannot always control their behavior.
I had the opportunity to do clinicals for school at BOTH VA hospitals. While I did see behavior problems nobody got arrested while we were there. HOWEVER, we were warned by staff not to use certain bathrooms alone or to make sure the outside door to the hallway locked. The story is poor journalism and I question its intent and timing. Who runs a story that sheds a very poor light on Vets on Memorial day weekend?
Before we judge these guys, many of whom have to fight just to get what they are owed and to get decent treatment, maybe we need to walk a mile (or roll a wheelchair) in their shoes.
Granted there are those who work the system, but are they any worse than the Section 8 folks who work the system??? Not in my book...at least they served.

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