Mother says late son didn't get help he needed from VA

ROSWELL, Ga. -- A mother whose son committed suicide after serving two tours of duty in Iraq says he didn't get the help that he needed from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Peggy Portwine is going to Capitol Hill in a few weeks to speak before the Veteran's Affairs Committee.

She says her son, Brian Portwine, visited the VA in Florida, but was never properly treated for post traumatic stress disorder.

Brian Portwine enlisted at age 17, right out of high school. After a year of basic training at Fort Hood, he was deployed to Iraq.

His mother says what he saw daily – car bombs, improvised explosive devices, explosions – took a toll.

"I think they're okay with what they have to do while they're over there, when they come back, it's almost like they have more time to reflect," said Peggy Portwine.

Brian's first tour of duty was 15 months. He then came home and enrolled in college, but was deployed to Iraq for a second time - this time for 12 months.

When he returned home for the second time, Portwine noticed major changes in her son.

"He was quick to get irritable, he was quick to get angry, then he would be so mad at himself at the same day, like he felt like he couldn't control himself," she said. "And I think he hated that. But at the same time, he felt abandoned.

In the last months of his life, Peggy says her son applied for disability, but never got it. Peggy knows now that she was watching her son battle PTSD and traumatic brain injury.

Brian took his life on May 27, 2011 - five months after returning home from Iraq.

"I think that he felt lost, that he lost his hope. The VA should've given him that hope and the treatment," Portwine said.

Portwine said she saw her son's VA records after his death. She said she should have been warned that her son possibly had a life-altering condition. She plans to speak about VA care, but also raise awareness on PTSD when she speaks in Washington next month.


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