Friday, April 25, 2008

VA Caught Witholding Information

[Coffins coming back from Iraq in 2004. That's not the only cost of this war that the Administration doesn't want people reminded of, apparently. Image credit: The Guardian UK.]

Senator Patty Murray, D-WA, said yesterday that she thinks the Veterans Administration is vastly understating the numbers of soldier suicides:

The Veterans Administration has lied about the number of veterans who have attempted suicide, Sen. Patty Murray said Wednesday, citing internal e-mails that put the number at 12,000 a year while the department was publicly saying it was fewer than 800.

VA Lying About Number Of Veteran Suicides, Senator Charges

To which I can only add: gee, go figure.

It's not like this Administration has ever lied to us about anything else.

Still, a propensity doesn't prove a specific case, so let's look at the basis for Murray's assertion:

The e-mails, uncovered as part of a class-action lawsuit filed against the VA in San Francisco, was reported by CBS News on Monday.

"Our suicide-prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among the veterans we see in our medical facilities," Katz wrote in a Feb. 13 e-mail to Ev Chasen, the department's communication director. "Is this something we should [carefully] address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?"

Chasen responded: "I think this is something we should discuss among ourselves, before issuing a press release. Is the fact we are stopping them good news, or is the sheer number bad news? And is this more than we have ever seen before?"

Murray: VA lied about vets' suicide attempts

Looks to me like being caught red-handed.

Numerous critics, including Sen. Murray, have been pointing out for some time that the VA is out of its depth when it comes to the mental health of veterans. Last year, CBS News conducted a study of suicide rates of veterans versus the general population. Their conclusions were that veteran suicide rates were at least twice the rate of the general U.S. population in 2004 and 2005. Their conclusion was the 6,250 veterans of various wars had killed themselves in 2005 alone. While some may quibble with some of the study's conclusions, it seems clear that veterans have special mental health needs that aren't being addressed adequately. Ilona Meagher of PTSD Combat points out this quote from an editorial in the Mankato (MN) Free Press:

Many veterans groups have favored the congressional proposals saying the number of veterans entering the VA health system from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan warrants the extra funding. In fact, Congress and the president in the most recent fiscal year boosted VA funding by an “emergency” $3.7 billion appropriation midway through the budget year after seeing tremendous increases in health care costs for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. That figure is close to the increase being proposed by Bush.

Editorial: Veterans funding or permanent tax cuts?

That's about three percent of the most recent "emergency appropriation" for Iraq requested by the Pentagon for the next few months of useless war.

If we spent a small fraction of the money we are spending on destroying Iraq to help these veterans, how much better off would they, and we, be? It's a question worth asking.


HopeSpringsATurtle said...

I too have posted on this topic before but it was nice to get verification from higher up albeit later when it was politically safer. Anyway, I used to get the monthly military reports that went to Doc Turtle which reported military suicide rates and casualties. Alas no more but this has been going on since day one.

Cujo359 said...

Sen. Murray's been after the VA on this issue for some time, but since the only two response we generally get to requests for information is "up yours" or a lie, it's been slow going. This is one of the reasons that I've been saying for some time that the Congress needed to impeach Bush. The President should be responsible for providing accurate and timely information to Congress. When he's not, he needs to be put on notice. Otherwise, we will end up with this situation being the standard operating procedure.