Rashed Mian has been covering local news for the Long Island Press since 2011. He graduated from Hofstra University in 2010 where he studied print journalism. Rashed, the staff's multimedia reporter, covers daily news for the web, shoots/edits feature videos and writes about civil liberties. He loves Afghan food and sports. Rashed is also a caffeine freak. Email: [email protected] Twitter: rashedmian
A tropical storm warning for Suffolk County was lifted Tuesday afternoon.
The latest development comes as post-tropical storm Hermine continues to weaken after it diverted from its projected path, thus sparing Long Island from the most dire warnings of pending damage.
With Long Island largely out of the storm’s path, predictions of wind gusts up to 75 miles per hour did not materialize. Instead, Long Islanders were greeted by 50 mph gusts on the East End and weaker gusts in Nassau County on Tuesday.
Still, the Island saw several hundred power outages Tuesday morning associated with the storm. Hermine has also been blamed for some flooding along the coast, despite the storm’s diminished state.
According to the National Weather Service, Hermine’s center was located approximately 100 miles south of Montauk Point and was moving west at only 3 mph.
The storm is expected to maintain a “slow and erratic motion” through Tuesday night before moving ever-so-slowly toward the northeast on Wednesday, the weather service said.
The once feared storm has already seen a decrease in maximum sustained winds to 60 mph and it will continue to weaken over the next couple of days. The storm could fall below tropical storm force by Thursday as it drifts further away in the Atlantic, forecasters said.
There remains a potential for minor coastal flooding across low-lying areas, as well as moderate beach erosion, as well as dunes being breached and strong rip currents, the weather service said.
“Battering surf capable of causing significant dune erosion and overwashes is possible through the next couple of days,” the weather service said in its afternoon statement.
Last week Hermine made landfall in Florida as a hurricane but was quickly downgraded to a tropical storm before churning across Georgia and the Carolinas. It stalled in the Atlantic hundreds of miles south of Long Island before continuing its northward track.
The tropical storm conditions that were originally predicted through Wednesday are no longer in the forecast for most of the Island.
It might not have taken the path forecasters expected, but post-tropical storm Hermine finally made its presence felt Tuesday on Long Island, spawning strong wind gusts, coastal flooding and some power outages.
Wind gusts of 35-50 miles per hour were recorded on LI Tuesday morning and there were reports of downed trees and more than 500 PSEG Long Island customers without power as of 9:45 a.m. Coastal flooding was reported at high tide early Tuesday in some areas. A tropical storm warning remains in effect for Suffolk County but was lifted Monday in Nassau County.
The slow-moving storm was about 90 miles south of Montauk as of 8 a.m. Tuesday, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm is expected to move west at 8 mph and lose speed as the day progresses.
“Hermine will likely become nearly stationary by [Tuesday night],” the weather service said. Forecasters predict Hermine will turn northeast Wednesday and head back out to sea by Thursday.
The weather service said there is still a threat of minor coastal flooding across low-lying areas. The most intense winds will be felt on the East End of Long Island, the weather service said.
Hermine made landfall in Florida last week as a hurricane but was quickly downgraded to a tropical storm before churning across Georgia and the Carolinas. It then stalled in the Atlantic before continuing its northward track.
On Saturday, officials from both Nassau and Suffolk counties warned residents to prepare for the worst as the impending storm approached. Suffolk County declared a state of emergency and Nassau remained on high alert from dangerous storm surges reminiscent of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
With concern growing, some Suffolk County residents Saturday received an erroneous message from a federal emergency management service warning of a mandatory county-wide evacuation. The county quickly corrected the message, which was that the evacuation was voluntary and only for Fire Island. That voluntary evacuation was also delayed and then lifted after less than a day when the storm appeared to have spared the region.
While the threat of the storm was widely blamed for dampening business in oceanfront communities over the Labor Day weekend, the latest forecast suggests that LI isn’t out of the woods yet.
With Tropical Storm Hermine threatening to batter Long Island for several days starting Sunday, officials on Long Island urged residents to prepare for the worst and to heed all warnings as the intensifying storm approaches.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone issued a state of emergency Saturday afternoon as the county recommended voluntary evacuations of Fire Island.
“Due to the impending storm, the Village of Ocean Beach would recommend everyone leave Fire Island safely,” Ocean Beach village police said. “Fire Island will have high winds and prolonged flooding conditions.”
The village said residents could expect ferry disruptions associated with the storm. The last ferry to leave Ocean Beach Saturday night will be at 9:40 p.m. Fire Island Ferry, the company that serves the western communities, said service will resume Sunday morning with the potential of service being suspended in the afternoon.
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano did not say if he intends to issue a state of emergency but he warned residents that storm surges reminiscent of Tropical Storm Irene are possible and 50 mile-per-hour wind gusts could create dangerous conditions.
Residents in low-lying and flood-prone areas should prepare emergency go-kits and make arrangements with family members or friends in the event of an evacuation, he said.
“Be prepared to leave your home,” Mangano said at a press conference at Nassau’s Office of Emergency Management in Bethpage.
“This is not something you go walk around in or go outside if it’s not absolutely necessary,” he added.
Tropical Storm Hermine is currently churning off North Carolina’s outer banks and is projected to move east into the Atlantic before tracking northward. The massive storm is forecasted to stall in the Atlantic where it’s likely to intensify once it catches the Gulf Stream.
Hermine will still be far south of the Island by Monday but the storm’s bands will start battering the shore in the afternoon. Even so, forecasters at the National Weather Service in Upton said Long Islanders will begin to feel the effects of the storm mid-day Sunday in the form of storm surges up to four feet along the coast.
Along with 50 mph wind gusts and sustained winds of 35 to 45 mph, Hermine is forecasted to dump more than inch of rain on the Island. Rain should start to fall Sunday night and continue through at least Monday. Labor Day could see the heaviest rainfall, the weather service said.
“This storm should be around for quite a while,” said Upton-based National Weather Service meteorologist Jonathan Wolfe.
The first 2016 presidential debate at Hofstra University is a little more than three weeks away, which means the showdown between Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and, a potential third-party candidate, though unlikely, is just around the corner.
Hofstra, which hosted presidential debates in 2008 and 2012, was a late selection for the inaugural presidential debate this year. The Commission on Presidential Debates was left to scramble in July when Wright State University backed out, citing rising costs and a “commitment to safety.”
Named an alternate location more than a year ago, Hofstra answered the commission’s call and will now become the first-ever university to host three consecutive presidential debates in as many cycles. Perhaps the only downside for Hofstra is the 10,000-student university basically had a two-month window to plan an all-encompassing event.
When the change of venues was announced, Hofstra said it anticipated a “slight uptick” from its 2012 debate budget, which was between $4 and $5 million.
“Because of our experiences in 2008 and 2012, we well understand what is required of us, and we are confident in our ability to execute an excellent debate in conjunction with the CPD,” Hofstra said in a statement at the time.
Now that we’ve reached September, the committee has released further details on the debate, including who’d serve as moderator and the event’s format.
Here’s what we know about the 2016 Presidential Debate at Hofstra University:
NBC Nightly News host Lester Holt will moderate the Sept. 26 debate at Hofstra. Holt took over the prestigious anchor chair following Brian Williams’ very public fall from grace earlier this year, punctuated by a six-month suspension punishing the longtime newsman for embellished remarks dating back to his reporting in Iraq. Holt’s telecast has consistently topped competing news programs on ABC and CBS, and in June, was awarded the Edward R. Murrow award for best Newscast.
The commission said the debate would be divided into six 15-minute segments focusing on significant political issues. These so-called “major topics” are to be selected by the moderator and announced at least a week prior to the debate. It’s unclear what scale is used to determine which issues take prominence.
Hofstra’s 2012 presidential debate was a more relaxed town hall debate that gave us Mitt Romney’s famous “binders full of women” comment and saw a more energized Barack Obama after an uninspiring appearance during the competitors’ first clash.
WHO WILL BE DEBATING?
Democrat Hillary Clinton will take on Republican Donald Trump during the debate but Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is hoping a late surge in public support can propel him to the debate stage. But due to the commission’s 15-percent polling prerequisite, it’s unlikely Johnson, who is currently polling at around 10 percent, will meet the threshold. Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who was arrested at the 2012 Hofstra debate as she protested the commission’s polling requirements, is currently hovering around 4 percent. The one thing the two long-shot third-party candidates have going for them is public support. According to a Morning Consult survey, 52 percent of those polled said Johnson, the former New Mexico governor, should be included in the presidential debate, while 47-percent want Stein to join the stage.
WHAT TIME IS THE DEBATE?
All debates will take place from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. ET. Advice: Grab some coffee, or something stronger.
Vice presidential debate:
Tuesday, October 4, Longwood University
Second presidential debate (town meeting):
Sunday, October 9, Washington University in St. Louis
Third presidential debate:
Wednesday, October 19, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Long Island has been placed under a tropical storm watch as Tropical Storm Hermine threatens to churn up the East Coast and disrupt Labor Day Weekend festivities.
The National Weather Service placed the region under a tropical storm watch at 11 a.m. Friday. The agency issues the alert when sustained winds of 39 to 73 miles per hour or higher are possible.
Although Hermine is currently moving across Florida and into Georgia, Long Island is still in store for strong rip currents and high surf throughout the weekend. Both Nassau and Suffolk counties could experience strong winds late Saturday and then possible coastal flooding Sunday morning, according to the National Weather Service.
“This is our greatest concern,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said of the possibility that Hermine stalls off the coast of Long Island and creates several days of nor’easter-like weather, which will cause coastal flooding and beach erosion.
“The water can be deceiving,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said of the rip currents at oceanfront beaches in advance of the storm.
Bellone said he’ll have a better idea on Saturday on whether the county will order evacuations of flood-prone areas.
Hermine made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane early Friday, but has since been downgraded to a tropical storm.
As of 5 a.m., the National Weather Service said the weakened Hermine’s maximum sustained wind was measured at 70 mph.
The National Hurricane Center said Hermine was moving into southeastern Georgia, bringing with it heavy rain and winds as it glided toward the Carolinas. The massive storm is expected to turn east toward coastal North Carolina Friday evening before heading off the Carolina coast Saturday morning.
If Hermine continues its path, it could batter the Long Island region with tropical storm conditions beginning late Saturday lasting through the middle of next week, the weather service said.
The biggest concern as of now is major coastal flooding as well as heavy rain and strong winds—but that could all change depending on the storm’s track, and if it gains or loses strength as it approaches the region.
Nevertheless, there will be a high risk of rip currents and beach erosion through the weekend and into next week, the weather service said.
Officials have already begun urging residents to prepare for a potential Labor Day weekend storm.
The weather service is forecasting possible tropical storm conditions beginning Sunday night into Tuesday.
“Even if the storm is no longer tropical when it emerges off the Mid-Atlantic coast, the potential for significant impact remains,” the weather service said in its briefing.
The last major tropical storm or hurricane to hit the Island was Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
That was just a year after Tropical Storm Irene slammed the Island in 2011. Irene was downgraded from a hurricane before it made landfall in New York.
Both storms resulted in prolonged power outages and weeks of clean up efforts. In the case of Sandy, some residents are still reeling from the nearly 4-year-old storm.
-With Timothy Bolger
(Featured photo credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team)
The House Committee on Veterans Affairs will hold a field hearing at the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center next month into maintenance and management issues at the facility, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley)’s office announced Wednesday.
“Over the past few months, since news first broke regarding the faulty HVAC system at the Northport VA, my office has been contacted by several Long Islanders regarding allegations pertaining to the Northport VA,” Zeldin said in a statement. “Any allegations regarding the care of our veterans must be taken very seriously.”
The committee has been investigating complaints from whistleblowers on a “range of issues regarding the Northport VA Medical Center for more than a month,” and September’s hearing is part of an ongoing probe into the facility, a committee staff member told the Press prior to Zeldin’s public announcement.
The probe centers around—but is not limited to—the facility’s maintenance, management, and contract work, among other issues, including reports of a faulty air duct system that spewed black particles into the facility, forcing officials to temporarily shutter five operating rooms in February. The committee hearing will also include a veteran’s recent suicide at the Northport VAMC on Aug. 21, the staffer told the Press.
The committee’s field hearing at the Northport VAMC has been scheduled for Sept. 20.
On July 29, Jeff Miller (R-FL), the committee’s chairman, sent a letter to U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert A. McDonald concerning the “deteriorating state of facilities” at the Northport VAMC.
“While it’s not unusual for older ductwork to have condensation and oxidation problems, the VAMC management’s inability to solve the root cause, which is creating health and safety risks for veterans and staff, is disappointing,” Miller wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the Press.
“The most troubling aspect of the whole situation is that the VAMC management reportedly became aware of the problem in mid-February, yet took no effort to notify the public, or Congress, until after numerous media reports emerged,” it continues, noting that Northport hasn’t been alone in having to shut down operating rooms due to ventilation issues. The letter cites three other similar cases.
News of the inquiry comes 10 days after a 76-year-old Peter Kaisen committed suicide at the Northport VAMC after he was allegedly turned away from the emergency room.
The New York Times was the first to report on the committee’s investigation, as well as the U.S. Navy vet’s suicide.
The Northport VAMC has been on the receiving end of a deluge of criticism since Kaisen’s death became public. In response, the hospital has said there’s no evidence that Kaisen sought treatment before ending his life. Those close to Kaisen are skeptical that he’d drive to the Northport VAMC for any reason other than for treatment.
Two people who work at the hospital told the Times that Kaisen was denied treatment. One of the Northport VA employees told the paper, “Someone dropped the ball.”
A family friend told the Press last week that they’re not on a “head-hunting” mission, but simply want to learn the truth and prevent such a tragedy from re-occurring.
Philip C. Moschitta, director of the Northport VAMC, penned a letter to Zeldin last week in which he said, “It appears that at no point that day did the veteran enter any VA buildings.”
“Additionally,” he continued, “we have not found any evidence that the Veteran sought assistance from any of our staff, including visiting the Emergency Room that day.”
The hospital’s staff would continue to review surveillance cameras to confirm whether or not Kaisen contacted the facility during the week before he died, according to the correspondence.
Jennifer DiSiena, a spokeswoman for Zeldin, who is a member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, noted to the Press prior to the congressman’s public announcement of the hearing that people began contacting the congressman’s office after the Timesrevealed in May that the hospital’s five operating rooms had to be temporarily shuttered because of black particles emanating from air ducts.
“The past few months, our office has been working with these individuals to collect facts through meetings, phone calls and other forms of communication, to compile as much substantiation as possible as quickly as we could,” DiSiena said in a statement. “Congressman Zeldin takes these allegations regarding the care of veterans very seriously.”
The information gleaned from Zeldin’s office has been shared with the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, DiSiena added.
Miller’s letter includes reports of flooded pedestrian tunnels, damaged roofs, and a ruptured cooling tower.
“We have a good working relationship with Long Island’s congressional delegation,” a Northport VAMC spokesman said in a statement to the Press. “We stand ready to work with Congress to provide the information needed to assist them in their oversight role, and share their commitment to ensure that Long Island’s veterans receive the care they have earned and deserve.”
McDonald had until last Friday to respond to Miller’s inquiries, including any plans to repair or replace HVAC systems and results from air quality tests, but has yet to respond, a committee staffer tells the Press. A request for comment from the VA Office went unanswered as of press time.
Two Long Island Congressman—Reps. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) and Peter King (R-Seaford)—have called on officials to hold a separate investigation into Kaisen’s death. The pair wrote a joint letter to the heads of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the FBI urging a “thorough investigation.” The FBI was called to investigate Kaisen’s death because it occurred on federal property, but it’s unclear if authorities are scrutinizing allegations that Kaisen was turned away.
Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), who is also a member of the House Veterans Affairs’ Committee, is “working closely with her fellow Long Island delegation members and Northport VA officials to gather complete information about the tragic and alarming suicide that occurred outside the Northport VA facility last week,” her office said in a statement.
“Congresswoman Rice is committed to ensuring that all veterans on Long Island have access to high-quality, comprehensive physical and mental health care, and we’ll continue working to clarify the facts surrounding this incident, review Northport’s protocols for handling veterans in need of mental health care services, and determine how we can ensure that tragedies like this will be prevented in the future.”
An 11-year-old boy and his mother were injured Sunday afternoon after the child fell from an escalator at Roosevelt Field, Nassau County police said.
According to police, the boy was hanging onto the railing of the escalator at Neiman Marcus as it ascended. Once the escalator reached the top floor, the boy fell approximately 30 feet, striking his mother, police said.
They were both transported to a local hospital, where the boy was listed in serious condition with a head injury, police said. His 33-year-old mom suffered an injury to her foot, police said.
Police did not identify either the mother or the child.
t 76, Peter Kaisen was the proverbial grandfather. He’d given all the love he had to his grandkids, and he’d make sure his three children, all girls, were well cared for.
But Kaisen also welcomed the soothing pleasures brought on by brief moments of tranquility. Whether it was his famous on-the-whim strolls through the local Home Depot or hours-long sessions tinkering in his garage, Kaisen appreciated those often-fleeting moments in life that few people take time to embrace.
It wasn’t that Kaisen was standoffish or unhappy. In truth, the U.S. Navy veteran saw no reason to wallow in self pity or invite unnecessary attention. He didn’t want to burden other people with his problems. Instead, he delighted in spending time with his wife, three children and seven grandchildren, or swinging by 7-Eleven so he could pick up a coffee for a friend battling a rare cancer associated with the U.S. military’s use of Agent Orange in Vietnam.
More often than not, Kaisen would grab the keys to his Toyota, saunter through his family’s Islip home, and despite a stubbornly achy back from a decades-old auto crash, hop inside, and veer off. A lot of times, Kaisen’s abrupt departures meant he was making the 19-mile journey to the Northport Veteran Affair’s Medical Center, where he sought out-of-pocket treatment for that ailing back, and enjoyed the services they offered to veterans like himself.
“I’m going out,” Kaisen would say, if he offered anything at all. His family was fine with it. That was Pete.
Kaisen lived with his wife Joan, whom he adored. The couple got married on New Year’s Eve more than a half-century ago. They had three kids together—two before Kaisen’s devastating on-duty injury as a member of the Long Beach Police Department. (Kaisen served so long ago that the current police commissioner could not find Kaisen’s name in a police database.) About 20 years ago, the couple became intrigued with the prospects of a quiet life in Florida, so they followed legions of New Yorkers who migrate south. Most never return—or if they do, it’s only for the glorious summer months on LI. But when the Kaisens left Long Island they left a large piece of themselves back home.
Unfulfilled, they returned north.
Through it all, Kaisen never changed. He was a quiet soul, yet he enjoyed adrenaline-packed NASCAR races on TV, which belied his mellow nature. He continued tending to the most minor of chores around the house, like picking up the kitty litter, and was famously unpretentious.
One of the few photos the Kaisen family has of the family patriarch is from this past Christmas: Kaisen, wearing a flannel button-down shirt, his eyes focused intently on the camera, showcasing a beaming smile.
Kaisen was fun and “bouncy” that day, remembers his longtime friend Tom Farley, 69, of Islip, who shared the snapshots of the beloved grandfather’s life included in this story with the Press on behalf of his family in the hopes these treasured tidbits might help others.
Whenever Kaisen was really happy, “The smile goes up about another half-inch,” Farley adds, laughing through the phone.
That was Pete.
Last Sunday, Kaisen yet again left the house without warning. As if a ninja in the night, he got into his beloved Toyota and drove away. He didn’t say a word to Joan; she assumed he was in the garage.
Then the phone rang.
“Your husband is very ill,” a caller from the Northport VAMC told Joan, according to Farley, who is serving as the family’s unofficial spokesperson as they grieve the tragedy that has befallen their family. “Bring someone to drive for you.”
Veterans Affairs police were the first to arrive on the scene, followed by Suffolk County police, which was alerted to the hospital at 12:07 p.m.
Joan got to the emergency room, but nobody was there to greet her.
“An old guy told her to knock on the door,” Farley recalls.
A hospital employee emerged.
“Is he gone?” Joan asked.
Stricken by shock and the sadness of losing her husband, Joan somehow summoned the wherewithal to call Farley, and urged him to find a seat.
Farley had met Kaisen about 40 years ago. They both served in the military—Farley in the Army and Kaisen in the Navy—but they only met after their wives became acquainted. Farley was the guy who’d talk nonstop, while Kaisen preferred to listen. Kaisen was seven year’s his elder, but it didn’t matter. They hit it off.
“He was a vet and I was a vet,” explains Farley, who served in Vietnam. It was as simple as that.
From the hospital, Joan told Farley everything that she knew—that Kaisen went to the VA seeking help. Then he killed himself.
“Your husband is very ill, bring someone to drive you.”
The details that have emerged regarding Kaisen’s final moments are sparse, and grim.
According to an explosive report in The New York Times, Kaisen was turned away at the emergency room—the only building open on Sundays, according to Farley—then walked to his Toyota and turned a .38 Smith & Wesson on himself.
A hospital employee discovered Kaisen’s body a short distance from his car, near a wooded area. As far as the family knows, no one witnessed Kaisen take his own life.
One apparent whistleblower was so distressed that Kaisen was allegedly turned away from the emergency room that they told the Times, “Someone dropped the ball.”
The VAMC says there’s no evidence Kaisen ever made it to the emergency room.
Farley, who is a true believer in the VA’s mission, is skeptical that Kaisen would drive all the way to the Northport VAMC only to end his life.
“He went there for help,” he insists.
Kaisens’ family believes he was suffering from some form of depression, but there’s no indication he was receiving treatment for mental health. Apparently, he appeared lethargic. Moving a little slower. But nobody thought anything of it—after all, Kaisen was 76 and he had been struggling through a nagging back injury and the associated effects of a deluge of painkillers for decades.
In the ’60s Kaisen joined the Long Beach Police Department and had been on the job for nine years when a speeding driver traveling the wrong way on a one-way street T-boned his police vehicle. Kaisen survived, but he would spend the rest of his days battling a debilitating back injury. Kaisen’s career as a police officer ended abruptly. He retired, earned workman’s comp and spent his years raising a family.
The on-duty crash not only relieved Kaisen of a career, but it meant one of his other joys in life was over.
On weekends, Kaisen would take the family sedan to the drag racing track in Riverhead, pay the $10 entry fee, and go for a spin.
“That was his thing,” Farley says with a laugh.
That was Pete.
The family has gone through the tough part of explaining to Kaisen’s seven grandchildren, who range from 10 to 18 years old, what happened to “Pop.”
Farley told them what their grandfather did may make life better for the next veteran who goes to any VA hospital around the country desperate for help.
“He went there for help.”
Farley credits the VA for saving his own life. He is fond of saying that “90 percent” of VA hospital employees are good people.
“He met a 10-percenter,” he says of his friend, if the whistleblower account is true.
The family simply wants to uncover the truth.
“Nobody is on a head-hunting mission,” Farley says. “We just don’t want it to happen again.”
Kaisen’s story, which the family is monitoring through the media, has already infused itself into national politics. Some observers are viewing the incident as yet another indictment of the VA health system. And Reps. Peter King (R-Seaford) and Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) wasted no time sending a joint letter to the heads of U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and the FBI urging a “thorough investigation.”
For the people who never met Kaisen, his long life is being condensed into a few brief moments. He’s now the military veteran who died seeking help. Another vet to succumb to suicide. Another vet failed by the American people and the bureaucracy that runs the very department served to advocate and protect them. Another vet we mourn.
But to the family, Kaisen is more than that. And they paid tribute to their hero in the best way they knew how: with brief words for a man who was few of them.
“Devoted husband, beloved father, grandfather, cherished friend and brother.”
Peter Kaisen, the 76-year-old veteran found dead in the parking lot of the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center this weekend, was a doting family man who enjoyed watching NASCAR on television and playing the role of grandfather.
“He was a family man,” his 51-year-old son-in-law Brian Henke told the Press in a phone interview Thursday. “Loved NASCAR, loved animals, [loved] his three daughters and seven grandchildren.”
“He was very good,” Henke said of his father-in-law, a retired police officer who was injured in the line of duty. “Very caring for his children and grandchildren.”
But as with many U.S. military veterans, Kaisen had his own struggles. He was a regular patient at the Northport VAMC, and the family believes Kaisen may have been suffering from depression, Henke said.
Kaisen’s last visit to the VA came this past weekend. He died in the parking lot of a hospital where many veterans like himself have sought much-needed help.
According to a report in The New York Times, two anonymous Northport VA hospital workers said Kaisen was turned away Sunday afternoon as he sought treatment at the medical center’s emergency room.
Kaisen then went outside to his car and, according to the report, committed suicide.
Asked whether the family has been in touch with the VA hospital in Northport, Henke said, “We haven’t talked to anybody.”
The family has no evidence to support the allegations from two anonymous sources quoted by the Times that Kaisen was turned away from the emergency room when he tried to seek treatment.
One anonymous source told the Times that Kaisen “went to the E.R. and was denied service.”
Another worker interviewed by the paper was critical of the Northport VAMC’s apparent handling of Kaisen’s case.
“Someone dropped the ball,” the hospital staffer was quoted as saying. “They should not have turned him away.”
The hospital released a statement through a spokesman Thursday afternoon that expressed sorrow for Kaisen’s demise but did not acknowledge the cause of death.
“The employees here at Northport feel this loss deeply and extend their thoughts and prayers to all those impacted by this tragedy,” the statement said. “We are committed to addressing the needs of all Veterans who are in crisis, and want Veterans and their loved ones to know we stand ready to help whenever possible.”
Suffolk County Police Acting Commissioner Justin Meyers said the department was alerted to the incident at 12:07 p.m. Kaisen’s lifeless body was found near his Toyota when officers arrived.
The FBI is now investigating the incident.
“He was a family man. Loved NASCAR, loved animals, [loved] his three daughters and seven grandchildren.”
Reps. Peter King (R-Seaford) and Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) on Thursday wrote a joint letter to the heads of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner and the FBI demanding a thorough and transparent investigation.
“It is critical that our nation’s veterans feel they can trust the services provided by their VA medical facilities, and that their health and well-being is of the utmost priority,” the letter states. “This trust must extend not only to medical treatment provided in operating rooms and primary care facilities, but also to the mental health services provided by all VA facilities.
“We demand that the FBI conduct a thorough, expeditious and transparent investigation into this incident, and we demand that the VA is transparent and fully cooperative in every aspect of the FBI’s investigation,” it continues. “Only a thorough and transparent report on the cause of this incident will ensure that the VA maintains the confidence of our veterans who have sacrificed so much for our nation.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) has reached out to the Northport VA hospital’s director, according to his spokeswoman, but it was unclear if the congressman gleaned any new information from the conversation.
Kaisen’s tragic death has prompted an outpouring of support from veterans and civilians alike.
As for how Kaisen would have liked to be remembered, Henke said, “He didn’t want a lot known about him. He was a quiet person.”
Summing up how many people feel after hearing of Kaisen’s passing, Henke said, “We need better care for our U.S. veterans.”
Kaisen’s body, according to a funeral home’s posting, will be cremated.
A Long Island military veteran committed suicide Sunday afternoon in the parking lot of the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center after allegedly being denied service, according to a report in The New York Times.
The veteran was identified as Peter Kaisen of Islip. He was 76 years old.
The Times, which was the first to report the story of his apparent suicide, quoted an anonymous hospital worker who claimed Kaisen “went to the E.R. and was denied service.”
“And then he went to his car and shot himself,” the Northport VA worker told the Times.
According to the report, “[Kaisen] had been frustrated that he was unable to see an emergency room physician for reasons related to his mental health.”
“Someone dropped the ball,” one worker was quoted as saying. “They should not have turned him away.”
One of the workers noted that a psychologist is not typically available at all times at the emergency room. However, the Northport VAMC’s site claims “There is always a caring mental health doctor available 24/7 in our Emergency Room.”
Suffolk County Police Assistant Commissioner Justin Meyers said the department was notified about the incident at 12:07 p.m. on Sunday.
Responding officers found Kaisen dead outside his Toyota, Meyers said.
“Because this incident took place on federal property,” he added, “the FBI is now leading the investigation.”
An FBI spokeswoman confirmed the agency’s involvement but said “there’s nothing criminal at this time.” She declined to say whether or not the death was related to suicide.
In a statement through spokesman Todd Goodman, the Northport VAMC, said: “There are no words to adequately convey our heartfelt sympathy to the family, friends and neighbors regarding the death of a 76 year-old Veteran found on the grounds of Northport VAMC.
“The employees here at Northport feel this loss deeply and extend their thoughts and prayers to all those impacted by this tragedy,” the statement continued. “We are committed to addressing the needs of all Veterans who are in crisis, and want Veterans and their loved ones to know we stand ready to help whenever possible. The Veterans Crisis Line is a resource that connects Veterans in crisis with qualified, caring VA responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
Goodman said the Northport VAMC would not be conducting any interviews with media outlets due to the sensitive nature of the incident.
In the Times report, he was quoted as saying there “was no indication that [Kaisen] presented to the E.R. prior to the incident.”
Jennifer DiSiena, a spokeswoman for Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), said the congressman is aware of the incident and is “trying to confirm details.”
“Our office has been monitoring the situation closely to try to piece everything together,” DiSiena said in a statement.
The VA released a study on veteran suicides in July which found that an average of 20 veterans each day take their own lives. Out of those daily suicide-related deaths, six were VA patients, according to the study, which used figures from 2014. In total, 41,425 US adults died by suicide that year, and 18 percent were identified as military veterans.
The tragic mental health crisis impacting veterans was documented in a 2015 report published by the Annals of Epidemeology, which concluded: “Veterans exhibit significantly higher suicide risk compared with the US general population.”
An announcement on the Moloney Family Funeral Homes website notes that Kaisen died on Sunday, Aug. 21.
“Devoted husband, beloved father, grandfather, cherished friend and brother,” reads the brief announcement.
Condolences poured in on the site, as people paid respects to the military veteran.
“We salute you sir,” reads just one of many tributes. “Your sacrifice for our country represents a staggering debt that can never be repaid. We pray for your family, your friends, and your soul. God bless you.”
“I read what happened to you,” another noted. “Your death is not in vain. Through your tragedy, may the bureaucrats change policies to help others that were in your situation.”
“As a Vet I would like to thank Mr Kaisen for his service and his family for their sacrifice,” a man who goes by Ed commented. “What a terrible shame it is when a veteran or anyone takes their life.”
The VA is no stranger to controversy.
Just two years ago, the Veterans Affairs medical system came under intense scrutiny when it was revealed that several veterans who were patients at a VA hospital in Phoenix died after prolonged waiting periods for treatment. Eric Shinseki, the VA Secretary at the time, resigned about a month after the scandal erupted.
The Press broke a story last year about the Northport VA’s controversial detention of former Marine-turned Occupy Wall Street activist Shamar Thomas, who was ironically held against his will at the facility in an attempt to help him. His confinement raised awareness about the many challenges facing his fellow servicemen and women as they return home from the battlefield.