Advancing National Service

When Families Are Left Behind After Veteran Suicide, This Oklahoma Nonprofit Helps Out

November 12, 2014
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When Families Are Left Behind After Veteran Suicide, This Oklahoma Nonprofit Helps Out
An installation of 1,892 American Flags on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., represent 1,892 veterans and service members who committed suicide this year as part of the "We've Got Your Back: IAVA's Campaign to Combat Suicide," March 27, 2014. Win McNamee/Getty Images
They step in when paperwork is too daunting or assistance is needed.

The staggering tally of 22 veteran suicides a day has impacted communities across the country. In Oklahoma alone, more than 140 veterans kill themselves each year, and these deaths account for about a quarter of all the suicides in the state.

One vital nonprofit, Veterans Corner, of Goldsby, is working to end this trend and to help the families left behind by it.

The families of veterans who commit suicide often need financial assistance, but they can’t bear facing the paperwork required to access their benefits. So Shirley Clark-Cowdin, a volunteer with Veterans Corner, personally accompanies widows and widowers to apply for their survivor benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. And when a veteran comes to her in grave need, as did a suicidal female veteran who had been raped while she serving in the military, Clark-Cowdin makes sure they are immediately admitted to a psychiatric facility.

Dale Graham, the VA agent who founded Veteran’s Corner, tells Rick Green of NewsOK, “There was a boy who came back from Iraq and went to Oklahoma City to the VA hospital and asked for help and was given paperwork to fill out. There might be 10, 15, 20 pages to fill out. Talk about a stressor. For PTSD, you have to fill out a form saying who got killed, what day it happened. That’s bringing all that stuff to the forefront. When the kid got back home and looked at all those papers and just killed himself.”

But when Veteran’s Corner is able to reach despairing veterans in time, they are able to prevent this outcome. And so far, they have a 100 percent success rate.

MORE: This Mobile App is Preventing Veteran Suicide

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