Veteran kills himself in St. Louis VA hospital waiting room, rep

An unidentified U.S. military veteran committed suicide Monday in the waiting room of a Veterans Affairs hospital in St. Louis.

Michelle Woodling, a city police officer, said the 62-year-old killed himself inside the John Cochran VA Medical Center about 4:19 a.m., the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

A U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs spokeswoman told the paper that the agency was “grieved’ to confirm that the veteran was found deceased.

The agency did not immediately respond to an email and phone call from Fox News. The circumstances leading up to the death were unclear.

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“Our deepest sympathies are with the Veteran’s family and loved ones, our medical center staff and the members of the community affected by this tragic incident,” the spokeswoman told the paper.

Meanwhile, embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin continues to hold the post. On Monday, a White House spokesman said President Donald Trump had confidence in Shulkin’s leadership “at this point in time.”

Early Monday, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley sought to dismiss reports of Shulkin’s imminent dismissal as head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the government’s second largest department with 370,000 employees. He told Fox News Channel, “we hear these types of rumors every day.”

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Shulkin, the lone Obama administration holdover in Trump’s Cabinet, abruptly backed out of a media availability Monday morning that had been scheduled at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Elsmere, Del., as part of an annual Veterans Summit hosted by U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.

Shulkin told organizers he needed to “get back on the road to Washington.”

“Secretary Shulkin’s singular focus is on finding the best ways to provide care and benefits to our country’s heroes,” said Shulkin’s strategic adviser, Ashleigh Barry, in response to questions about the secretary’s public plans in the coming days.

Also read:  Liberia's election results were delayed on Wednesday by hitches at a number of polling stations, with Vice President Joseph Boakai and footballer George Weah seen as the frontrunners to succeed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The National Elections Commission (NEC) is expected to announce the first official results from the presidential and legislative elections on Thursday. If no candidate wins 50 percent of the presidential vote, a run-off between the top two contenders will be held on November 7, an outcome analysts say is a near certainty. Turnout for Liberia's first democratic transfer of power in seven decades was exceptionally high, the electoral panel has suggested. It admitted that staff at polling stations had in some cases caused long waits for voters and widespread confusion, and many closed as late as 3am, triggering the delay. Controversy erupted after some voters were directed to the wrong polling place or were made to stand in hot sun followed by heavy rain for hours, leading the NEC to apologise for the conduct of staff who misdirected voters. "We have already admitted that our queue controllers at various polling places were not at their best," NEC Chairman Jerome Korkoya told journalists. "They were supposed to direct voters to the proper line they were assigned. From all indications in many places they didn't do that and we take responsibility for that," he admitted. Liberians wait outside a polling station to vote in Monroviaplay Liberians wait outside a polling station to vote in Monrovia (AFP Photo/ISSOUF SANOGO) Staff training would be reformed for the next election, he added. One district in northeastern Nimba will also have a re-run after a failure to open all four polling places. The nation's 2.18 million registered voters made their choice from a crowded field of 20 presidential candidates -- including just one woman -- and elected 73 parliamentarians for the lower chamber, the House of Representatives. Longtime opposition figure Charles Brumskine and upstart former Coca-Cola executive Alexander Cummings are deemed to be close on the heels of Weah and Boakai. - Parties blame NEC - Political parties voiced concern at the problems. "Some people will stand in the queue for hours just to be told at the end that you have to go to the other line. Some people could not stand that, and we are very concerned," said Moore Allen, a spokesman for the Unity Party (UP), which is backing Vice President Boakai. "It is NEC responsibility to show voters the way in a manner that they will not make mistakes," echoed Ansu Sunny, a spokesman for Weah's Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), though said they did not believe the problem was of a huge magnitude. In the 2005 and 2011 presidential elections, Weah's CDC party and Sirleaf's Unity Party went into the run-off round of voting. The vote is seen as a crucial test of Liberia's stability. Sirleaf, Africa's first female elected head of state, is stepping down after a maximum two six-year terms in which she steered the country away from the trauma of civil war, but, say critics, failed to tackle its poverty. - 'More resources' - Joe Pemagbi, an electoral observer for the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, said dialogue between the parties in the period before a possible second round was key to avoiding conflict. "A lot more resources need to be put into civic and voter education, because that's key to how people respond to some of these challenges," including frustration over being unable to cast ballots, Pemagbi said. "People should be pushing for peaceful dialogue and inter-party dialogue," he added, saying it "is extremely important at this point in time". The US State Department hailed the vote as "an important step toward achieving Liberia's first peaceful transfer of power from one democratically-elected head of state to another in decades". Back-to-back civil wars, the 2014-16 Ebola crisis and slumped commodity prices have left Liberia among the world's poorest nations, while corruption remains entrenched.

Shulkin’s fate has been in doubt since a blistering February report by the VA’s internal watchdog that found he had improperly accepted Wimbledon tennis tickets and his staff had doctored emails to justify his wife traveling to Europe with him at taxpayer expense.

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