Thursday, November 15, 2007
The focus must stay on our Veterans: Knowing the volatile future we face the tremendous troop suicide rate really concerns me!
Having just passed another Veterans day where we focus on a tribute to our veterans, their suffering, sacrifices, and needs, a program I saw last night reminded me that we must focus on this every day and not just once a year. I frequently focus on our veterans housing and medical needs. Despite what we are told,, the treatment of our veterans is wholly inadequate. Bush continues to say how much he cares about our soldiers past and present while continuously disregarding their needs and care as he plays his politics at their and our expense.
Much attention is focused on the inadequate attention given to active military and to those injured in combat and the attention they receive once they return state side. I myself use the VA care system and see the inadequacy of that system as well as the great need they fill and the large amount of soldiers that have PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)
We know that one out of four homeless are veterans so we focus on that. We know that PTSD in Vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is at 28% and focus on that. There are more veterans losing limbs than ever before in history and deservedly much attention is focused on them though we constantly hear how inadequate the system is.
Anyway I want to focus on something I never hear mentioned and that is the frightening rate of military suicides during or after military service in Iraq or Afghanistan. There are no records kept and I understood the thought process to be that if records are not kept then it never happened!
There were calls in the Senate yesterday for the Department of Veterans Affairs to take immediate action to deal with the hidden epidemic of suicides among veterans. That's after our CBS News investigation revealed that, in 2005 alone, 120 of those who have served in the military took their own lives every week - more than double the suicide rate for those who haven't served. That’s 6,256 veteran suicides in one year in 45 states - a rate twice that of other Americans. Now the question is whether the VA is willing or able to deal with it, CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports.
The failure of the VA to track the alarming number of suicides nationwide among those who have served in the military appears to be part of a broader pattern - and a bigger problem. Veterans' rights advocate Paul Sullivan was a data analyst for the VA from 2000 to 2006. "I don't think they want to know. We call it the "don't look, don't find" policy," he said. "The VA doesn't collect data, then they don't have to do anything about it."
The mental health numbers the VA does report reveal an agency under siege: 100,000 vets now seeking help for mental health issues. That’s 52,000 for post-traumatic stress disorder alone. And now, in addition to these reports criticizing the VA’s treatment and spending practices come two more blows: of nearly 90,000 Army vets who served in Iraq in 2005 and 2006, a study released yesterday found 28.3 percent experienced mental health problems, while the report - due out tomorrow - says while veterans are 11 percent of the general population, they now make up an estimated 25 percent of the homeless. military suicide epidemic
This is another crisis and needs immediate attention. We have failed these soldiers in many respects including here. There has never been a Nationwide study and the following is the result of a 5 month CBS news investigation.
Veterans aged 20-24, who are those most likely to have served during the War on Terror, are killing themselves when they return home at rates estimated to be between 2.5 and almost four times higher than non-vets in the same age group. (The suicide rate for non-veterans is 8.3 per 100,000 while the rate for veterans was found to be between 22.9 and 31.9 per 100,000.).
Overall, those who have served in the military were more than twice as likely to take their own life in 2005, than Americans who never served. (Veterans committed suicide at the rate of between 18.7 to 20.8 per 100,000 compared to other Americans, who did so at the rate of 8.9 per 100,000.) . “Those numbers clearly show an epidemic of mental health problems,” says veterans rights advocate Paul Sullivan.
“Nobody wants to tally it [veteran suicide numbers] up in the form of a government total,” says Mike Bowman, whose 23-year-old son, Tim, an Army reservist, shot himself on Thanksgiving Day, 2005. Why does he think that is? “Because they don’t want the true numbers of casualties to really be known,” he said.
The CBS News Investigative Unit, led by producer Pia Malbran, contacted all 50 states for their suicide data, based on death records, for vets and non-vets dating back to 1995. “If these numbers don’t wake up this country nothing will,” Murray said. “And I would say to all Americans that we each have a responsibility to the men and women who serve us aren’t lost when they come home.” Keteyian also spoke with Paul Rieckhoff, former Marine and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America. He rightly said “Not everyone comes home from the war wounded, but the bottom line is nobody comes home unchanged.” More on the veteran suicide epidemic
This really surprised me and we must address this issue. We owe it to our misused and abused veterans. please tell me what you think!