House Committee Slams VA On Veteran Suicides
By Stephen Spotswood
WASHINGTON—"This is going to be an emotional hearing."
With that statement, Rep. Bob Filner (D., Calif.), chair of the House Veterans Affairs (VA) Committee, opened a Dec. 12 hearing on what he and other legislators are calling an epidemic of suicides among veterans in the United States and their dissatisfaction with VA’s response.
"This is a topic," Rep. Filner said, "that the Department of Veterans Affairs and the American public don’t like to talk about."
However, in a marathon hearing held shortly before the holiday recess, a spotlight was focused on the topic, and a hearing that began with the story of one family’s struggle with their son’s suicide ended with Rep. Filner severely berating leading VA mental health officials.
Disputing The Numbers
Many times during the hearing, both legislators and VA officials stated that "the exact numbers should not matter" in a discussion of veteran suicide; that one suicide is one too many. Still, a lot of time was spent arguing over just how prevalent the problem is.
The hearing was prompted in part by a CBS news story in November on suicides in the veteran population that put last year’s number of veteran suicides at over 6,000. VA officials refuted that number, questioning its validity. But a VA Inspector General report released in May of 2007 found that as many as 5,000 veterans commit suicide a year—nearly 1,000 of whom are receiving VA care at the time.
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Pro-war bloggers need to stop calling the media liars. It's true and they really couldn't care less.