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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

In Suicide Note, Veteran Cites Complaints About VA

November 11, 2000

VENTURA — Despondent over problems with his military benefits, the district attorney's office and the county's mental health services, a 45-year-old Oxnard man hanged himself from a tree early Friday at the Ventura County Government Center.

Mark Allen Hineman was found hanging about 4:30 a.m. by a Los Angeles Times carrier.

Sheriff's investigators said Hineman left a detailed note in his car nearby that cited complaints against the county and the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.

Ventura County Sheriff's Department spokesman Eric Nishimoto said Hineman's note contained references to his ongoing struggles with the VA over compensation for a series of health conditions since his discharge from the Air Force nine years ago.

The note also suggested that Hineman's timing--a day before Veterans Day--was meant to draw attention to his plight and that of other veterans.

"He was upset with the way the VA handled his medical problems," Nishimoto said. "He chose to do it at the Government Center as a statement. It's a sad thing. As far as his emotional problems, they were long-term."

The Los Angeles VA headquarters was closed Friday for Veterans Day, and no one was available for comment.

Others familiar with the case said Hineman had suffered mental problems for years.

George Compton, a claims officer for the county's veterans services division in Ventura, said Hineman had no recent dealings with his office.

"It disturbs me because I am an old soldier," said Compton, a Vietnam veteran. "I spend all my time trying to help veterans get benefits they deserve."

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