Monday, May 05, 2008



Dr. Katz :" There is no Suicide Epidemic "

12,000 suicide attempts by Iraqi vets per year
6,570 suicides of Iraqi vets a year

from : americansunite

Senators Want VA Official Out For Suicide Cover Up/ CBS News Interactive: Military 101/Pia Malbran

NEW YORK (CBS News) ― The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) deputy chief, Gordon Mansfield, was questioned Wednesday by members of congress in Washington about allegations that the VA tried to cover up the true risk of suicide among veterans.

"I am very angry and upset," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., during a Senate hearing on veterans issues. Murray asked Mansfield how the public should trust the VA when "every time we turn around we find out that what you're saying publicly is different from what you're saying privately?"

Internal e-mails made public this week as part of a lawsuit in San Francisco federal court show what appears to be the deliberate attempt by top VA officials to conceal the number of suicides and attempted suicides by veterans.

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.

After a public records request, the VA provided CBS News with data that showed there were a total of 790 attempted suicides by VA patients in the entire year of 2007. This number was nowhere near what Katz was saying privately in his email.

also check out:
as the writer at Osiris Journal says:
Osiris Journal: Continuation on Veteran Care

Dr. Katz is a geriatric specialist, though he deals a lot in depression of later life, maybe he ought to concentrate on the here and now! If someone is letting our veterans drop off like that, and while many are under the care of the VA, then we have a big problem, someone is using them as guinea pigs! It's bad enough that the 'regular depressed folks' are treated as experiments, but to fuck with the head of someone who has seen limbs litter the streets and live for fear of being bombed anytime they leave the green zone is just cruel cruel cruel. Once again, the lives of too many veterans remain at risk, someone has to be held accountable. So let's just give one big "shout out" to Dr. Ira katz, heck of a job katzy!

Countdown: Abandoning The Troops
Paul Rieckhoff of IAVA weighs in and Think Progress has more:

Update April 24

VA official accused of covering up suicide rates
Dems call for mental health chief to quit after e-mails contradict reports, MSNBC April 24,2008

WASHINGTON - Two Democratic senators have called for the chief mental health official of the Veterans Affairs Department to resign, saying he tried to cover up the rising number of veteran suicides.

Sens. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and Patty Murray of Washington state said Tuesday that Dr. Ira Katz, the VA's mental health director, withheld crucial information on the true suicide risk among veterans.

"Dr. Katz's irresponsible actions have been a disservice to our veterans, and it is time for him to go," said Murray, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. "The No. 1 priority of the VA should be caring for our veterans, not covering up the truth."

Akaka, the committee's chairman, said in a letter to the VA that Katz's "personal conduct and professional judgment" had been called into question by his response to veteran suicides.

Veterans, and the VA itself, "would be best served by his immediate resignation," Akaka said.

A number of Democratic senators said they were appalled at e-mails showing Katz and other VA officials apparently trying to conceal the number of suicides by veterans. An e-mail message from Katz disclosed this week as part of a lawsuit that went to trial in San Francisco starts with "Shh!" and claims 12,000 veterans a year attempt suicide while under department treatment.

..."It is completely outrageous that the federal agency charged with helping veterans would instead cover up the hard truth — that more and more Americans coming home after bravely fighting for their country are suffering from mental illnesses and in the most tragic circumstances, committing suicide," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. "Anyone at the VA who is involved in this cover-up should be removed immediately."

Harkin, Murray and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., introduced legislation Tuesday calling on the VA to track how many veterans commit suicide each year. Currently, VA facilities record the number of suicides and attempted suicides in VA facilities — but do not record how many veterans overall take their own lives. The agency, however, is reluctant to disclose specific numbers, veterans advocates complain.

The new bill would require the VA to report to Congress within 180 days the number of veterans who have died by suicide since Jan. 1, 1997, and continue reports annually. Harkin's office said statistics provided earlier this year by the VA showed that 790 veterans under VA care attempted suicide in 2007. That figure is contradicted by the e-mail revealed this week.

Think Progress/
VA Conceals Vet Suicide Figures From CBS To Downplay ‘Epidemic In Suicide’ /April 22, 2008

Yesterday marked the opening day of a class action lawsuit brought by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans against the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), arguing “that failure to provide care is manifesting itself in an epidemic of suicides” among veterans. The VA denies the charges, pointing to increased resources devoted to mental health.
Today, CBS News reports that the VA apparently concealed veteran suicide statistics, and fed the news organization faulty data for a story on the issue. The VA told CBS that there were 790 attempted suicides in all of 2007. Yet shortly after, the VA’s head of Mental Health, Dr. Ira Katz, wrote in an e-mail to the VA’s top media adviser that there were “about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among veterans we see in our medical facilities.”
CBS Special on Iraqi Veterans Suicides
aired November 2007

Part 2
" The Don't Look Don't Find Policy " Veterans Affairs
The Nation as a whole is indifferent
More US Soldiers have died from suicide than from combat since the beginning of the Iraq War.
Soldiers are just Cannon Fodder for the BUSH REGIME & THE NEOCONS

also see CNN's Waging War on the VA

and :

It is a strange phenomenon that those who are so enthusiastic about the Iraq War and are so bellicose about supporting the troops are also the one who do not want to be reminded of the human cost of this war. They don't want to be told about the deaths of American soldiers or how many have been seriously wounded who have lost limbs or have been disfigured or how many have been badly brain damaged or those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. As for those suffering from extreme depression or drug and alcohol abuse or who attempt suicide they are by most conservatives characterized as being weak willed and cowardly.These so called supporters of the troops have little interest in supporting and helping them once they return home. They claim these psychological problems and addictions are of no concern of Veterans Affairs. Part of what we see here is once again the stigma in our society in general attached to psychological problems that is mental illness and addictions as compared to a physical illness disease or injury. Like General Patton these narrow minded ill-informed conservatives think these individuals just need a slap across the face or a kick in the butt to motivate them.

Veterans' Suicides: a Hidden Cost of Bush's Wars By Penny Coleman, AlterNet. Posted November 11, 2007.

Americans have been effectively insulated from the human cost of our wars. That's not an accident; it's policy.

With the exception of the unspeakable images of Abu Ghraib, which were e-mailed home by soldiers themselves, for six years Americans have been effectively insulated from the human cost of our wars. This insulation is not an accident; it is policy. Images from the Vietnam years, like the naked child trying to outrun her own burning skin, or the anguished women and children waiting their turn to be executed at My Lai, were catalysts that helped turn public opinion against that war. This time, the government wanted to ensure that would not happen. On the eve of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Pentagon issued a directive to the media forbidding any coverage of returning American coffins. No coffins, no funerals, no wounds, no tears. No empathy.

and see article at CITYPAGES.COM for personal stories about vets who committed suicide and why they did not receive the psychiatric treatment they should have :

But at the VA, not much has changed/ Soldier Suicides: veterans are killing themselves in record numbers By Beth Walton/ March 26, 2008

VA confirms 18 vets commit suicide every day/By Jason Leopold/April 22,2008

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.

Brig. Gen. Michael J. Kussman, the undersecretary for health at the VA, sent the email, dated Dec. 15, 2007. Kussman had inquired about the accuracy of a news report published that month claiming the suicide rate among veterans was 18 per day.

“McClatchy [Newspapers] alleges that 18 veterans kill themselves everyday and this is confirmed by the VA’s own statistics,” Kussman wrote. “Is that true? Sounds awful but if one is considering 24 million veterans.”

In an email response to Kussman, Ira Katz, the head of mental health at the VA, confirmed the statistics and added “VA’s own data demonstrate 4-5 suicides per day among those who receive care from us.”

This week, in a federal courthouse in San Francisco, that email will be cited as evidence that the VA has failed to properly treat veterans who suffer from PTSD and veterans who are suicidal. Those allegations were made in a class action lawsuit filed against the VA by two veterans advocacy groups, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth, alleging a systematic breakdown at the VA has led to an epidemic of suicides.

The organizations claim the VA, which has a backlog of 600,000 benefits claims to sort through, is unprepared to deal with cases of posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD] among veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and has turned away veterans who have sought help for depression at VA hospitals. Some of those veterans later committed suicide, according to the lawsuit.

The groups want a federal judge to issue a preliminary injunction to force the VA to immediately treat veterans who show signs of PTSD and are at risk of suicide.

and see:
McClatchy Washington Bureau :Commentary: The disgraceful treatment of our veterans By Joseph L. Galloway | McClatchy Newspapers /12/13/07

...The experts say that between 20 and 30 percent of all troops returning from combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But many of VA hospitals didn’t have the special PTSD programs that experts say are vital. Soldiers returning from Iraq are allowed to slip unnoticed into their old lives, and neither the Department of Defense nor the VA does anything to monitor their mental health.

The VA keeps telling Congress that all is well. That's not true, either. As Adams reported, the VA has been using fudged or inflated numbers to do so. And after years of promising that it's getting a growing backlog of disability compensation applications under control, things actually got worse this year.

No matter whether they've been wounded and need follow-up care and support, or whether they're coming apart at the seams and feeling suicidal, they sometimes must wait months for an appointment to be evaluated and treated at VA medical centers.

The same people who don’t blink at spending $3 billion a week on their war of choice in Iraq were the ones who cut the VA budget and privatized maintenance at Walter Reed Army Hospital and opposed every attempt to expand benefits for veterans old and young.

They're the same people who turned a blind eye as their corporate sponsors and private donors looted billions of dollars from the Treasury with no-compete contracts and bloated bills for everything from food for the troops to fuel for their tanks and trucks...

As for lack of empathy and the need by many in the US Media to defend the Bush/Cheney Regime see a good example at The New York Post who seem to treat PTSD and depression and suicide as fairly unimportant issues for returning vets from Iraq or Vietnam or The Gulf War or Korean War. The issue for them is that all wars fought by America are good and help turn boys into " Real men " or girls into " Macho-females ", and true patriotic citizens . All the rest is just liberal Marxist bias . Is this just more propaganda as opposed to real journalism. But then again the New York Post thinks that Bush did find WMDS in Iraq after the invasion and has solid proof of the connections between Saddam & Al Qaeda and that the so called insurgents are mainly Iranian soldiers who have entered Iraq.


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