The Secretary of Veterans Affairs visited the Texas clinic that was the site of a murder suicide to offer condolences and support.
“The entire Veteran Affairs family is here to show their empathy for the employees here, for the veterans here in El Paso,” said Bob McDonald, Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Secretary McDonald visited staff at the VA clinic where Jerry Serrato, a former employee and Army veteran, gunned down psychologist Dr. Timothy Fjordbak and then killed himself.
“We’re reviewing security measures in all veterans affairs department facilities. We do that frequently anyway but anytime we have any kind of an incident we obviously do that,” said McDonald.
Fort Bliss ramped up security checks including random searches of vehicles at gates leading to the VA Clinic and William Beaumont Army Medical Center.
But now there will an added layer of security at the clinic. VA police will check identification of all people entering the clinic and randomly search bags and parcels.
Many patients did not realize the VA clinic was closed for a second day because of the FBI criminal investigation. But did notice the extra security when they arrived on post.
“Today they were more strict, sure. I don’t blame them,” said Moises Flores, 90, a World War II Veteran.
“I’ve been coming to this institution for 50 years, I guess,” said Flores. He said he was worried after hearing about the shooting but not concerned enough to miss his standing weekly appointment.
Other patients were frustrated about having to make a return trip to the VA clinic.
“They were going to contact people about their cancellation. Well they never called me about mine today,” said Harry Smith, who walked up to the clinic door with a small oxygen tank on wheels.
The clinic reopens Friday with tighter security. Security will also increase at outpatient clinics off post.
“We’re looking forward to getting back to business. And we really appreciate the community support from Fort Bliss, William Beaumont in terms of the support they’ve provided us during this tragic situation,” said Peter Dancy, Acting Director of the El Paso VA Healthcare System.
The VA and Army are providing counseling for VA clinic staff, patients and veterans in the aftermath of the shooting.
Some worry the murder-suicide will create a stigma for veterans who have mental health problems and need to visit the VA clinic.
“There’s a lot of sick soldiers out there that need help,” said Crystal Glover, an army veteran who spent seven years in the service. “But I’ve never felt unsafe here.”