The widow of a local veteran has been invited to testify this week before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. Heather McDonald will speak out about the death of her husband and the disturbing number of fatal accidental overdoses among returning soldiers.
Tuesday morning McDonald was fine-tuning the statement she plans to deliver to Congress later this week when she testifies about her husband, Scott, who died last year from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.
"I'm going to tell them who he was, what kind of a man he was," McDonald said. "He wasn't just a veteran. He had two daughters, a wife, a mom, dad, a sister."
After five tours of duty, Scott McDonald returned to Columbus suffering from chronic back pain, migraine headaches and post traumatic stress disorder. Doctors at the VA clinic prescribed a variety of pain killers and anti-depressants. His death in September 2012 was ruled accidental from the combined effect of the drugs.
A 2011 VA study found VA patients had nearly twice the risk of fatal accidental poisoning than the general population.
Since NBC4's first report about the rate of accidental overdoses among veterans, Heather McDonald has heard from many other veterans, widows, the national media, and ultimately the House Committee on Veteran's Affairs.
"It's about so much more than Scott now that it's a bit overwhelming because I'm not just fighting for my husband's healthcare that he did not receive properly, I'm fighting for everyone out there now and I feel incredibly honored and proud."