Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Truth About Veteran Suicides

[A big welcome to Crooks and Liars readers. - F]

Here's some excerpts from an article on a huge problem that is not being adequately addressed, and the huge cover-up of it, in Foreign Policy In Focus:

Eighteen American war veterans kill themselves every day. One thousand former soldiers receiving care from the Department of Veterans Affairs attempt suicide every month. More veterans are committing suicide than are dying in combat overseas.

These are statistics that most Americans don't know, because the Bush administration has refused to tell them. Since the start of the Iraq War, the government has tried to present it as a war without casualties.

We should all be angry about what has gone on here, Filner said. This is a matter of life and death for the veterans that we are responsible for and I think there was criminal negligence in the way this was handled. If we do not admit, assume or know then the problem will continue and people will die. If thats not criminal negligence, I dont know what is.

Its also part of a pattern. The high number of veteran suicides werent the only government statistics the Bush Administration was forced to reveal because of the class action lawsuit.

Another set of documents presented in court showed that in the six months leading up to March 31, a total of 1,467 veterans died waiting to learn if their disability claim would be approved by the government. A third set of documents showed that veterans who appeal a VA decision to deny their disability claim have to wait an average of 1,608 days, or nearly four and a half years, for their answer.

Other casualty statistics are not directly concealed, but are also not revealed on a regular basis. For example, the Pentagon regularly reports on the numbers of American troops wounded in Iraq (currently at 31,948) but neglects to mention that it has two other categories injured (10,180) and ill (28,451). All three of these categories represent soldiers who are so damaged physically they have to be medically evacuated to Germany for treatment, but by splitting the numbers up the sense of casualties down the public consciousness.

Heres another number that we dont often hear discussed in the media: 287,790. Thats the number of returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who had filed a disability claim with the Veterans Administration as of March 25th. That figure was not announced to the public at a news conference, but obtained by Veterans for Common Sense using the Freedom of Information Act.

Why all the secrecy? Why is it so hard to get accurate casualty figures out of our government? Because the Bush Administration knows if Americans woke up to the real, human costs of this war they would fight harder to oppose it.

According to an April 2008 study by the Rand Corporation, 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans currently suffer from post traumatic stress disorder or major depression. Another 320,000 suffer from traumatic brain injury, physical brain damage. A majority are not receiving help from the Pentagon and VA system which are more concerned with concealing unpleasant facts than they are with providing care.

In its study, the RAND Corporation wrote that the federal government fails to care for war veterans at its own peril - noting post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury can have far reaching and damaging consequences.

Bush and Congress have the power to stop this problem before it gets worse. Its not too late to extend needed mental health care to our returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans; its not too late to begin properly screening and treating returning servicemen and women whove experienced a traumatic brain injury; and it is not too late to simplify the disability claims process so that wounded veterans do not die waiting for their check. As the Rand study shows, this isnt only in the best interest of veterans, its in the best interest of our country in the long run.

To start with, the Bush Administration needs to give us some honest information about the true human costs of the Iraq War.

Well, that isn't going to happen, and neither will Veterans get the services they need and deserve from the current regime. They only care about money going to the military industrial complex, which includes themselves, and control of oil. They care not one whit about the human carnage they have created in the lust for profit. After all, it's other people's kids who've been dying and suffering. The administration has lied and conned them into volunteering by disguising their true agenda and wrapping it in the flag. They pay great lip service to 'support the troops', but it's just more of the lies and bullshit that characterize the Bush junta.

I am down-deep certain that someone, somewhere, in this administration is hoping, perhaps to a level of policy, that if enough Veterans kill themselves, die awaiting treatment that may never come, get locked up, or just shut the fuck up and stay out of sight, the problem will go away. Not having served themselves, they don't understand Veterans very well. Not being good human beings, they don't understand obligation to those they've hurt either.

This is just one more mess they've left for the next and subsequent administrations to deal with. And those had better.

As a nation, we will be cleaning out Bush's stables for the next generation and beyond, and I hope the crap lands right on those responsible, but I'm sure that in the world of reality they'll duck it and prosper as always. Dammit.


Crossposted at The American Patriot Institute.

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