December 19, 2008 – On Friday, the Dr. Phil television program became the first national mainstream talk show to devote an entire hour to the plight of veterans featuring an investigative report by CBS Chief Investigative Correspondent Armen Keteyian that exposed an epidemic of suicide among those who have served in the military. * VCS Note: CBS News worked with VCS for several months on this investigation. Please see links below. *
“They come home and have no help, no voice,” said the show’s host, Dr. Phil McGraw, of veterans who often feel mistreated and neglected when they return to the U.S. after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The system is broken,” he added.
Congressman Bob Filner, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, appeared on the show along with the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, Tammy Duckworth, and Paul Rieckhoff, the executive director and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).
Filner said the U.S. government was not prepared for the aftermath of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He said the current crisis in the Middle East has generated almost a million veterans and the federal agency charged with taking care of them, the Department of Veterans Affairs, is struggling to keep up with physical and mental wounds. He said there have been cases where suicidal veterans have been turned away from the VA and then kill themselves. And, he said the VA currently has a backlog of approximately 800,000 benefits claims that need to be processed.
During the show, a clip was also shown of the CBS News story that aired in November of 2007. The report, done by Keteyian, exposed for the first time just how widespread the issue of suicide is among vets. CBS News discovered that young veterans in their twenties commit suicide at a rate that is up to four times what it is for civilians the same age. Keteyian was shown questioning the VA’s head of mental health, Dr. Ira Katz, who was, at the time, downplaying the risk.
Dr. Phil said the VA declined his invitation to appear on the show. He ended the program by telling veterans: “you are not forgotten.”
Struggle Of Soldier Suicides
The pain of losing a loved one to suicide: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=3498262n
Eye To Eye: Veteran Health
Paul Sullivan, a former VA analyst who is now the executive director of the advocate group Veterans For Common Sense, shares his insight. http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=3498254n
Veterans Families Speak Out
The families of veterans speak out. http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=3504148n