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?

Explore posts in the same categories: America, Bush/Cheney, Government, Indecency, Iraq, Lying Bastards, veterans

4 Comments on “Veterans committing suicide in record numbers”

  1. Buffalo Says:

    War always kicks a person’s ass and their soul. I think this one is particularly bad because of the extended and back to back tours. That has to be taking a toll and will continue to do so for a very long time to come.

    As I’ve said before, my personal experiences with the VA have been positive. I don’t have any legitimate bitches. They are, however, growing more and more overwhelmed with by the growing patient numbers, the lack of extra money to adequately deal with the influx and they have some management level people with their heads firmly stuck up someone’s ass.

  2. expatbrian Says:

    I agree with you on their current woes of financing and being overwhelmed by the numbers. The administration was so shortsighted on this war that they believed it would be over in a few months. Still, the VA has become a political entity of support for the president and either cannot or will not allow publicity that undermines him.
    Thus, the lies about suicide levels.

    There is plenty of money for veteran care be it medical or mental. There is plenty of hospitals to house those who need it. An administration with sensible priorities would shift some dollars away from unnecessary expenditure or create some dollars through taxes to pay for the needs of our veterans.

    This administration doesn’t give a shit about our veterans and proves it almost daily with its obscene behavior towards them. Its criminal. Its traitorous. Yet, there he sits in the White House, day after day. Nixon was a gem compared to The Little Weasel.

  3. The cover-up of veteran suicides is criminal, but do not forget that there are 30,000 suicide deaths in the US every year, and in states like Kentucky, suicide is the second leading cause of death age 15-34. Treatment, for depression, is being denied to veterans and citizens alike. Many active military and veterans are using Kentucky’s state health services to avoid military discrimination. Their use of state programs is overwhelming an under funded system. Every American must put strong pressure on all hospitals, doctors, lawmakers, and insurance companies to solve this problem. The Surgeon General of the United States stated that suicide “is preventable” and is a “public health problem”. If we can put men on the moon, we can solve this problem.
    James McFarland
    Steering Committee, Kentucky Suicide Prevention Group

  4. expatbrian Says:

    Hi James, Thanks for the comment and the visit. I can’t fault vets for seeking health care through any means when they so desperately need it. They wouldn’t have to ofcourse if the agency that was set up to handle these needs was not underfunded, inefficient and now politically motivated. It is a travesty.

    Interestingly, my closest friend in Vietnam was a guy from Greenville, Kentucky. I spoke to him a few years after the war and he was working in the mines but otherwise doing ok.
    Kudos to you for your efforts and the best of luck to you.

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