John Weigel, a 58-year-old Navy vetern, is $139,000 deep in medical debt and is feeling suicidal under the weight of the bills. On September 13, he attended a Bernie Sanders town hall at the Carson City community center. He wanted to ask for help.
Weigel waved his medical bill in the air. A campaign aide took the paper from Weigel and gave it to the senator, who eventually called on Weigel to speak.
“John, I’m looking at a bill that says account balance $139,000. What is that about?” Sanders asked.
“It’s because somehow after the fact they claim that my Tricare, I chose to end it, which I didn’t,” Weigel said. “They’re saying that I didn’t re-sign it or something.”
“So how are you going to pay off?” Sanders asked.
“I can’t, I can’t,” Weigel said. “I’m going to kill myself.”
“Hold it, John,” Sanders said firmly. “Stop it. You’re not going to kill yourself.”
That moment was caught on video and quickly went viral across social media.
A Navy veteran told Sen. Bernie Sanders at a Nevada town hall that he can’t find any way to pay $130,000 worth of medical bills after losing his military health care: “I’m gonna kill myself!” https://t.co/qE5qUqug8T pic.twitter.com/FkidtSsqm1
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 15, 2019
According to The Washington Post, Weigel said he spoke to Sanders and his wife, Jane Sanders, after the event and they told him they would help, though they didn’t say how. The Sanders campaign told The Post had “reached out to a Nevada senate office for case work help.”
“Hearing his voice, that was really powerful. It was a wake-up call,” Weigel said. “I know he cares. He’s always cared about veterans.”
Weigel has had to pay for his anti-depressants and heart medications out of pocket. He is now back on Tricare but still has hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt from when he was inexplicably kicked off of it previously. Weigel was also diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, a degenerative brain disorder, less than four years after retiring from the military in 2002.