September 9, 2013
The latest news on veterans committing suicide at a rate of 22 a day made the headline the beginning of the year. When you read the following reports it is clear that the 22 a day is only part of the story.
VA Hid Suicide Risk, Internal E-Mails Show
The charges were backed by internal emails written by Dr. Ira Katz, the VA's head of Mental Health.This wasn't news last week, or last year but came out in 2008. With 1,000 "attempts" per month within the VA system, that means we had 32.88 a day trying to kill themselves. 1,000 x 12=12,000 and 12,000 divided by 365 days is 32.88. The average of 22 suicides a day equals 8,030 a year. That equals 55 a day not wanting to live anymore. How do they go from being willing to die to save someone else during combat into not wanting to live when they are supposed to be out of danger? How does this happen without anyone being held accountable?
In the past, Katz has repeatedly insisted while the risk of suicide among veterans is serious, it's not outside the norm.
"There is no epidemic in suicide in VA," Katz told Keteyian in November.
But in this e-mail to his top media advisor, written two months ago, Katz appears to be saying something very different, stating: "Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among veterans we see in our metical facilities."
Katz's email was written shortly after the VA provided CBS News data showing there were only 790 attempted suicides in all 2007 - a fraction of Katz's estimate.
"This 12,000 attempted suicides per year shows clearly, without a doubt, that there is an epidemic of suicide among veterans," said Paul Sullivan of Veterans for Common Sense.
This also came out in 2008
According to a study released last week by the Rand Corporation, an estimated 300,000 veterans among the nearly 1.7 million who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are battling depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Another 320,000 veterans suffer from Traumatic Brain Injury, physical brain damage which is often caused by roadside bombs.Paul Sullivan worked for the VA but he resigned in protest because of what he was seeing.
However, the VA reports only about 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have received health care from the VA system - about 120,000 for mental injuries. That means more than half the American service personnel wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan have slipped through the cracks.
"In 2005, while working at VA, I briefed senior VA political leaders that VA was in a crisis of a surge of disability claims of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans," he said. "I recommended in writing that the VA hire more claims processors to make sure the veterans get their benefits faster instead of facing six month delays or even longer."
"The VA didn't do anything to help the veterans. What the VA actually did was several things to lock the doors and block veterans from getting mental health assistance from VA," Sullivan added.
As reported from Oklahoma and Arizona, the number of veterans committing suicide is double the rate of civilians. This is also something that was reported in 2008.
Compared with the number of suicide attempts, the number of actual suicides is monstrous in comparision. CBS news identified a total of 6,256 suicides in 2005 among veterans of the "war on terror" [VCS Note: this should read 6,256 suicides among all veterans], double the national average, although that number does not include the 5 states who refused to provide their suicide statistics for the CBS report.
Nevertheless, Dr. Katz told colleagues in another private email that "There are about 18 suicides per day among America's 25 million veterans," and "4-5 suicides per day among those who receive care from us [the VA]." Katz goes on to add that his figures are ironically "supported by the CBS numbers," which he disparaged previously in public.
In his later email titled "Shh!" Dr. Katz asks colleagues if the suicide statistics should be buried by dropping them into "a general release about our suicide prevention efforts," "before somebody stumbles onto them."
The biggest issue not being covered is the simple fact that while we did have 25 million veterans the VA only has less than 4 million in their system that they would have any record of. Remember the study they were forced to do that came up with the 22 a day figure? Those veterans committing suicide were taken from death certificates and not from the VA system.
The "adjustment" disorder we still talk about today was being pulled on veterans in 2008.
U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti said, "This hearing is unique" because he reopened the case after the conclusion of a two-week trial in April and May on a lawsuit filed by two veterans' groups.The Hotline had taken in 225,000 calls but when you see the numbers in the other reports it is clear that "prevention" and "resilience" training didn't work. As bad as the successful and attempted suicide numbers are, the fact that many veterans reach the crisis point screamed that something had to change.
Conti accepted into evidence both the e-mail written by psychologist Norma Perez and the transcript of a June 4 U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on the message.
Perez is the coordinator of a post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, team at a regional veterans' medical center in Texas.
Her March 22 e-mail appears instruct staff members to avoid diagnosing PTSD in returning vets because of the cost and instead to diagnose a less expensive adjustment disorder.
The e-mail says, "Given that we are having more and more compensation-seeking veterans, I'd like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out. Consider a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder, ruling out PTSD."
VA Saves Nearly 7,000 Suicidal Veterans
Secretary Shinseki honored Dr. Janet Kemp, who received the "2009 Federal Employee of the Year" award from the Partnership for Public Service. She helped create the Veterans National Suicide Prevention Hotline to help distraught veterans. Since August 2007, the Hotline has received almost 225,000 calls and rescued about 6,800 veterans, according to VA. VCS supports Dr. Kemp's work and the hotline.
VA set up the hotline after VCS filed suit in July 2007, and after many suicidal veterans had already been turned by a VA still unprepared to handle hundreds of thousands of additional patients from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on top of the steady flow of new patients flowing into VA due to PTSD, Agent Orange, and the war-exacerbated global economic crisis.
What GAO FoundSo as you can see, we were warned about what was going on but too many forgot all about the warnings.
Over the 5-year period from fiscal years 2006 through 2010, about 2.1 million unique veterans received mental health care from VA.
Each year the number of veterans receiving mental health care increased, from about 900,000 in fiscal year 2006 to about 1.2 million in fiscal year 2010. OEF/OIF veterans accounted for an increasing proportion of veterans receiving care during this period.
In January of 2013 The Washington Post report from The Fold released a video report that the number of veterans committing suicide was 22 a day. Shocking unless you knew about the reports above.
By the time the report was released it showed this.
Numbers according to the VA 29 and younger, non-veteran 24.4%, veteran 5.8% 30-39 non-veteran 20.0, veteran 8.9% 40-49 non-veteran 23.5, veteran 15.0% 50-59 non-veteran 16.9, veteran 20.0% 60-69 non-veteran 7.4, veteran 16.8% 70-79 non-veteran 4.2, veteran 19.0% 80 and older non-veteran 3.6, veteran 14.5%
It also showed that the OEF and OIF veterans were 30 to 200 percent more likely to commit suicide than their non-veteran peers.
CNN reported on December 17, 2008 another lawsuit filed by veterans "Stressed soldiers sue for disability benefits" because too many were not getting what they should have. With a rating of 30% or lower, they only received a lump sum severance after being discharged. "The lawsuit, filed by the National Veterans Legal Services Program, accuses the Army of illegally cutting off benefits to thousands of veterans and their families by refusing to assign a proper disability rating to those veterans after they had been discharged with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)."
2008 Army = 140; Air Force = 45; Navy = 41; Marine Corps = 42 total 268With the omission of the Army National Guards and Reservists, just using the numbers released since 2008 when all the "efforts" should have worked the data shows these heartbreaking results.
2009 Army = 164; Air Force = 46; Navy = 47; Marine Corps = 52 total 309
2010 Army = 160; Air Force = 59; Navy = 39; Marine Corps = 37 total 295
2011 Army = 167; Air Force = 50; Navy = 52; Marine Corps = 32 total 301
A total of 915 Service Members attempted suicide in 2011 (Air Force = 241, Army = 432, Marine Corps = 156, Navy = 86). DoDSERs were submitted for 935 suicide attempts (Air Force = 251, Army = 440, Marine Corps = 157, Navy = 87). Of the 915 Service Members who attempted suicide, 896 had one attempt, 18 had two attempts, and 1 had three attempts.
2012: Army 185, 93 Army National Guard and 47 Army Reserve, but the reports left out the citizen soldiers when they included 48 Marines, 59 Air Force, 60 Navy total 492
Air Force 260
Marine Corps 211
Total since 2008 1,526
As of today the Suicide Event Report from the DOD for 2012 has not been released. This report contains each branch along with attempted suicides. The true number is not known publicly but the DOD knows what the true number is.
The Army totals so far this year are 184.
2013 Army there have been 94 potential active-duty suicides;
For CY 2013, there have been 90 potential not on active duty suicides 58 Army National Guard and 32 Army Reserve (from January to thru July)
We need to take a look back at what was being reported for the Army National Guards and Army Reserves.
January 2009 through November 2009, there were 71 reported suicides. For the same period in 2008, there were 50 suicides among reserve soldiers who were not on active duty.
Army Releases January Suicide Data 20102008 50
During January 2010, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were 15 potential suicides. For December, among that same group, there were 7 total suicides. Of those, 5 were confirmed as suicides and 2 are pending determination of the manner of death.
“There’s no question that 2009 was a painful year for the Army when it came to suicides. We took wide-ranging measures last year to confront the problem, from the service-wide stand-down and chain-teach program, to enhanced suicide prevention programs and guidance for our Army units, and the suicide prevention research through our partnership with the National Institute of Mental Health,” said Col. Christopher Philbrick, deputy director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force.2010 145
“Regrettably, the numbers of suicides in the Army family did not diminish in 2010, but, we are committed to educating and informing our soldiers and their families to better understand the increasing rate of suicides in the force and reduce the number of soldiers, civilians and family members we lose to suicide. Our unit leaders, first-line supervisors and close friends must continue to be vigilant to the warning signs of risky behavior, and to look for ways and opportunities to reach out to those who need help,” Philbrick said.2011 114
“As we look ahead to the strategic reset, transitioning from a predominantly wartime Army to a ready and responsive one, leaders at every level must be actively engaged. They must understand the issues addressed in this report, apply the many lessons learned and, unlike the mostly reactive efforts of the post-Vietnam Army, continue to take a proactive approach to generating health and discipline in the force.And this was followed by this report in February of 2012
During January, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were 6 potential suicides (5 Army National Guard and 1 Army Reserve): none have been confirmed as suicide and six remain under investigation. For December, among that same group, the Army reported 5 potential suicides. Since the release of that report, 1 case has been added for a total of 6 cases (4 Army National Guard and 2 Army Reserve). 6 were confirmed as suicides and none remain under investigation.Ending with this report from February of 2013
For 2012, there have been 143 potential not on active-duty suicides (96 Army National Guard and 47 Army Reserve): 117 have been confirmed as suicides and 26 remain under investigation. Not on active-duty suicide numbers for 2011: 118 (82 Army National Guard and 36 Army Reserve) confirmed as suicides and no cases under investigation.
“The Army continues to take aggressive measures head-on to meet the challenge of suicides as every loss of life impacts our family,” said Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, deputy chief of Staff, Manpower and Personnel. “In spite of the increased loss of life to suicide, with calendar year 2012 being our highest on record, the Army is confident that through our continued emphasis in the services, programs, policies, and training that support our Army family, we will overcome this threat to our Force.Considering all the claims made, all the money spent by the DOD and the VA on "resilience" don't you think these numbers clearly show this attempt should have ended long ago?
When the DOD finally releases the Suicide Event Report for 2012 then we can add in the number of active duty troops attempting suicide as well. If 2011 is used as an example of "Of the 915 Service Members who attempted suicide, 896 had one attempt, 18 had two attempts, and 1 had three attempts" then it is closer to 57 a day attempting suicide connected to military service.