VA: Navy Yard gunman treated in August but not for mental issues

Aaron Alexis, the gunman in Monday’s deadly shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, was treated in late August in the emergency rooms of two separate VA Medical Centers, according to a Wednesday statement from the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

On Aug. 23, Alexis checked into the VA Medical Center in Providence, R.I., complaining of insomnia. He was given a small dose of medication to help him sleep after he was examined, the department said. 

He was instructed to follow up with a primary care provider, the VA said. 

Several reports have said police were called to a hotel days earlier in Newport, R.I., on Aug. 7, where Alexis said he was being followed, and that he was worried people were going to hurt him. 

Alexis said these people were using a microwave machine to send vibrations through the walls to keep him awake. 

Five days after he visited the Providence VA Medical Center, on Aug. 28, he requested a medication refill in the emergency room at Washington, D.C.’s VA Medical Center. Alexis said he was still experiencing insomnia, saying it was due to his work schedule, and was again told to follow up with a primary care provider. 

VA doctors, the department said, asked Alexis “if he was struggling with anxiety or depression, or had thoughts about harming himself or others, which he denied.” 

This differs from The Associated Press report Tuesday that Alexis had been treated for mental health issues by the VA since August. 

Alexis was discharged from the Navy in 2011, having served since 2007. He was based in Fort Worth, Texas, for much of his service and did not serve overseas. He enrolled in VA’s healthcare system in February 2011. 

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Records indicate he never sought an appointment from a mental health specialist, the VA said. Alexis also either canceled or failed to show up at VA medical centers for primary care appointments and examinations required to submit disability claims. 

The VA said Alexis filed a disability claim with the VA and was initially granted a 20 percent disability rating for orthopedic issues in late 2011. That rating was increased to 30 percent late last year. He also was granted a claim for tinnitus. 

Ratings are determined by the severity of the health issue. 

It’s unclear, however, whether Alexis had applied for any other type of disability, including for any mental issues. 

Alexis had previously been arrested several times, once in Seattle in 2004. The city’s police department said he was arrested after shooting the tires of someone else’s car in what Alexis described as an “anger-fueled shooting.” 

During that investigation, Alexis’s father, who was living in New York, told police his son had “anger management problems associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.” He also said his son aided in the rescue efforts on 9/11, an event which Alexis said had disturbed him. 

Alexis was a military contractor, the FBI has said, and had official access to the Naval Sea Systems Command Headquarters where the shooting took place. 

Law enforcement officials are still trying to figure out his motive for the shooting that left 12 people dead and several injured.