Over the course of this year, systemic failures at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have become known to the public, including VA cooking the books on veterans’ healthcare, disability claims, and medical research.
A new investigative report by USA Today sheds light on VA cooking the books on yet another area under its vast military veteran purview — veteran suicides. [“VA touts progress on suicides; data tell another story,” Aug. 25, 2014, Dennis Wagner reporting]
A widely touted statistic related to veteran suicides — that there are an average of 22 a day — now appears to be not only horrific, but vastly underestimated, according to the USA Today investigation.
“Craig Northacker of Vets-Help.org said death records do not capture the real tally of veterans’ suicides, which he estimates at 30 to 35 daily.
[VA deputy director for suicide prevention Caitlin] Thompson acknowledged the data dilemma: “Numbers of suicides are just very, very difficult to get, period.” ”
USA Today also showed how slow real change is to come to VA. Seven years ago, VA’s top mental health officer, Dr. Ira Katz, was exposed in a media scandal of covering up the true impact of the veteran suicide crisis. According to USA Today, Katz sought to minimize the crisis in secret internal emails marked so they would not be released to the media, which they were eventually anyways:
” “Shh!” Katz wrote in one message. “Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among veterans we see in our medical facilities.” “
This renewed public exposure revives a longstanding issue: Why is Ira Katz still at VA in the same position of responsibility over veteran suicides?
The USA Today story includes a bulleted list of veteran suicides following VA failure — statistics and anecdotes not reported by VA anywhere.
These tragic statistics and anecdotes mirror the findings in a 2007 Veterans for Common Sense lawsuit filed against VA that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and definitively showed that veterans were committing suicide awaiting VA care and benefits decisions. [Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth and Justice v. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs].
Veterans and the public await justice and the long-overdue removal of Ira Katz and others like him from the federal agency entrusted with the care of our nation’s veterans, their widows, and their orphans. in the meantime, the public’s recognition continues to grow regarding how wide the extent is of VA officials cooking the books over many years: veterans’ VA healthcare, veterans’ VA benefits claims, veteran-related VA medical research, and the latest… VA’s monitoring, tracking, reporting, and preventing veteran suicides.
*** Read the full USA Today story here: