The family of an Iraq war veteran killed in a standoff with police at his Kansas City home Memorial Day weekend is speaking out exclusively to CBS19, saying he reached out to his local VA hospital for help with his PTSD just four days before the incident, but was turned away.
Now his aunt, who lives here in East Texas, is urging other veterans to get help before it's too late.
Sgt. Isaac Sims, 26, was a third-generation Army veteran whose family says was proud to serve his country.
"He would have stayed in the military and made a lifelong career out of it. All he ever wanted to be was a soldier," Sims' aunt, Elizabeth Summons, said.
Sims had been back home for a little over a year after serving two tours in Iraq, where he suffered a brain injury from an IED. Friends and family noticed he wasn't himself.
"He would have very wonderful laughing moments, and then he would withdraw into himself," Summons said. "The last several weeks, he was confused. He would think he was in Iraq."
The Sunday before Memorial Day, Sims was shot and killed during a 5 1/2 hour standoff at his home after police say he pointed an AK-47 at officers.
His mother says the family pleaded with the Kansas City VA Medical Center on several different occasions to see her son for his severe depression, migraines and PTSD -- even as recently as four days before his death -- but were told he would have to wait.
"They said, 'We don't have room for you. Your problem's not big enough. We'll get him treatment within approximately 30 days, if a bed becomes available,'" Patricia Sims told our Kansas City affiliate, KCTV.
"He asked for help multiple times. He begged for it," Summons said. "My sister asked them could he bring his sleeping bag and sleep on the floor of the V.A. hospital. She said, 'he doesn't need a bed. He's a soldier. He can sleep anywhere. Just keep him here, keep him safe.' That's not what happened. The system failed him terribly."
Now, his family hopes VA hospitals across the country will take notice and change the way they do things.
"They let him fall through the cracks, and he's dead now because of it," Patricia Sims said.
His aunt is urging other veterans to do whatever it takes to get help.
"They need to reach out to someone, ask for help," Summons said. "If you can't get it, keep asking and keep asking."
In a statement following Sims' death, the Kansas City VA Medical Center said:
"We are aware of this tragic situation and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family at this very difficult time. We are unable to comment on an ongoing police investigation or on care provided to a particular veteran. However, we want to encourage any veteran (or their family member) who has questions or concerns about the attention or services they are receiving to contact the Kansas City VA Medical Center director's office."