🌀 Track Hurricane Maria: Interactive Map

Congressman says families of Colorado veterans not getting help they need

DENVER -- The family of a Colorado Marine says a combination of prescription drugs prescribed by the Department of Veterans Affairs nearly led to his death.

Now, a Colorado congressman wants answers.

"In my view, it’s attributing to the suicide rate," said Rep. Mike Coffman, a former Marine who specializes in veterans issues.

After the FOX31 Problem Solvers contacted Coffman, he actively began investigating the case along with others he's been looking into.

He says treatment of 33-year-old wounded Iraq War veteran Cory Hixson points to a much larger picture of how survivors of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are receiving medical treatment from the VA.

"These veterans are often prescribed a very powerful cocktail of drugs what we call psycho tropic drugs that affect them emotionally. It is a shortcut from the kind of treatment that they need," Coffman said.

Based on the evidence he’s seen, Coffman is officially launching an investigation in Congress.

"What we're seeing quite frankly is a pattern of suicides," he said.

Hixson's family says he'd been suicidal when he took off in the middle of a 25-degree night last weekend in Broomfield.

His wife showed a table full of drugs she says he was taking prescribed by different personnel at the VA.

According to a Department of Veterans Affairs study of military veteran suicide rates released last summer, an average of about 20 former service members a day take their own lives.

"People need to stick together help their veterans and realize that when they're struggling that they may need help and reach out to them,” said Shala Hixson, Hixson's wife who’s been struggling to care for him.

After meeting with Hixson’s family, Coffman said the pattern of treatment must change.

“Clearly, we want to help this veteran and their family but I have an obligation as a House Veterans Affairs Committee member as a Marine Corps combat veteran myself to help all veterans and this is a problem that affects so many veterans who've returned from combat," he said.

"We act as a liaison between the veteran and the VA,” said Greg Monck of the Colorado Wounded Warrior Project, which has stepped in to help. “To assist and insure that our veterans are getting the benefits they have earned on the battlefield.”

“With all this support my family is confident, we're going to get the help we need,” Shala Hixson said.

But Coffman says too many are not getting that help.

RELATED: FOX31 Problem Solvers Serving Those Who Serve