Saturday, April 26, 2008

Veterans committing suicide in record numbers


Two veterans groups who have filed suit against the VA have exposed a coverup by that agency as to the number of vets who are attempting and succeeding in committing suicide. The VA, in response to a records request by CBS news had said that there were a totol of 790 suicides in all of 2007. However, a private email that has come to light shows otherwise.

In one email message titled “Not for the CBS News…,” the VA’s head of mental health Dr. Ira Katz wrote "Shh!" and then claimed there were 1,000 suicide attempts per month by veterans under the care of the agency. The e-mail was written last February when CBS News was questioning the VA about the number of veterans who have tried to kill themselves.
Attorney Gordon Erspamer, whose father was one of the GI's exposed to massive radiation during the atomic bomb tests on Bikini Atoll in 1946 and later developed leukemia, is handling this case pro bono. He has done a lot of free work on behalf of vets since finally winning a $90,000 settlement for his dad. It took him 10 years fighting the VA to get disability benefits for him.

"If you add up the veterans' suicides among those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and compare it to the total combat deaths, the veteran suicides are higher," says Attorney Gordon Erspamer, who introduced a VA e-mail at the trial that showed an average of 18 vets a day are committing suicide. "The VA doesn't want that out."
Sens. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and Patty Murray of Washington state said Dr. Ira Katz, the VA's mental health director, withheld crucial information on the true suicide risk among veterans. Murray, who clenched her jaw and seemed to shake with anger during the discussion, said she is tired of spending “every day for five-and-a-half years” trying to drag information out of VA.

In a stunning admission, top officials at the Veterans Health Administration confirmed that the agency’s own statistics show that an average of 126 veterans per week —6,552 veterans per year—commit suicide, according to an internal email distributed to several VA officials.
She said a study showed 6,250 veterans killed themselves in 2005 — and in his e-mails, Katz “not only backed up those numbers, but said they were much higher.” The emails also show that 12,000 vets a year that are under VA care are attempting suicide.

A second department e-mail message from Dr. Katz shown at the trial starts with “Shh!” and refers to the 12,000 veterans per year who attempt suicide while under department treatment. “Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?” it asks.
This is the organization that is supposed to support, treat, counsel and give aid to our veterans. But this is the Bush era VA and they are obviously more concerned with making his sorry ass administration look good than they are with their stated mission. And we are paying their salaries.

You can and should read this and the related articles published by Veterans for Common Sense here.

Think about how bad it must be for this many young soldiers who survive the war, to be so absolutely desperate that they must take their own life when they come home. Something is horribly wrong here. And the one agency whose sole function is to protect and help them covers up the problem instead.

Now throw into that mix the fact that recruiting standards have been lowered so as to allow those who are already mentally unstable to join and serve. If stable men are so stressed out that they can only get relief through suicide, what chance do these less capable recruits have?

How wrong is a war where more troops kill themselves than get killed on the battlefield. How wrong is the policy that allows that to happen? And how can we even consider electing another man who publicly supports these policies and fully intends to continue them? Are they all crazy or are we?

cross posted at World Gone Mad

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Blogger Libby Spencer said...

This is so infuriating. It makes me want to shove a yellow ribbon magnet down the throat of every person who claims they're supporting the troops by keeping them stuck in that quamire for years on end.

As for the brass responsible for the coverup, every last one should be immediately deployed to the front lines and not allowed to come home until 'we win.'

9:49:00 AM  

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