July 31, 2014
It is difficult to figure out what is going on after a survey of OEF and OIF veterans were asked questions on what goes through their mind. The stats were predictable although disgraceful. A third of 2,000 veterans said they thought about committing suicide. This is after almost a decade of Congress funding billions a year on "prevention" to the DOD and "programs" to the VA. Half of the veterans knew someone who did in fact attempt to commit suicide while 40% knew someone who succeeded.
This year, the four services have seen 162 confirmed or suspected suicides — 151 among active-duty troops and 11 among reserve component members — through July 20, according to Pentagon documents obtained by Military Times.
The Navy and Air Force both had an uptick in suicides, while the Army and Marine Corps are down from their 2013 year-to-date numbers.
In the same period last year, there were 160 total deaths by suicide across the four services. In 2012, there were 209.
Senator Joe Donnelly pushed suicide prevention even though his own numbers show that help from the DOD and the VA were not working. He stated that 43% of the suicides happened but the veterans had not sought help. That meant that 57% did seek help.
Senator Joe Donnelly says 43 percent of servicemembers who committed suicide never sought help. He says trying to combat the problem of military and veteran suicide needs to involve erasing the stigma of seeking help.
“They feel like, ‘Well, I don’t want to burden somebody’ or ‘I don’t want anybody to have to worry about me’ or ‘I don’t want anybody to have to spend an extra thought on me,’” he says.
The years pass by and more is being done but the years have not been kind at all as more graves are filled by servicemen and women after they were supposed to be safe out of combat. The fight for their lives was a losing battle that will never be won until every veteran in this country demands changes made.
These stories are very troubling because they all happened this summer. It is only the end of July.
Justin Davis went to the VA for help. He became one of the at least 22 to commit suicide that day.
A Kentucky National Guardsman served two tours in Iraq. Justin Neil Davis was only 24. His last tour ended when he was 22 in 2012. Davis knew he was having problems. He had been in the VA rehab for 30 days but as it turned out, it didn't make that much of a difference.
Davis, a veteran of the Kentucky National Guard, had served two tours in Iraq, the most recent ending in 2012, according to guard records.
Before his fatal encounter with police, Davis struggled with alcohol abuse and was released from a 30-day rehabilitation program in September, according to divorce papers filed by his wife in October. His father, a Navy veteran, died in February. By March, Davis was without a job.
Vallandinghan said Davis had an appointment at the Memphis VA Medical Center at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday to have an MRI on his back, and that while he was there, told VA staff he was having suicidal thoughts.
After leaving, Vallandinghan said, he texted friends and family to say goodbye.
Iraq veteran Icarus Randolph was killed by police.
"We were failed, they failed," Ida Allen, sister of the man killed said. "The city failed us."
Police say Icarus Randolph charged at an officer with a knife after they were called to the scene by family for a report of a suicidal person.
His family says Randolph's mother made a call for law enforcement to check on his mental wellness, saying he suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after serving in the Iraq war as a Marine.
Issac Sims was trying to get help for PTSD but ended up killed by SWAT 2 days after the VA after being told he had to wait a month to be seen.
Issac Sims’ family said he spent every day last week coming to the VA hospital, but was told on Friday that he had to wait a month to be admitted for his PTSD. Sims, 26, was an Iraq war veteran.
On Sunday, Sims got into a fight with his father outside their home on 23rd and Lawndale. A neighbor called police when Sims fired gunshots.
When officers arrived, they decided to call in the SWAT team. The standoff ended when officers shot and killed Sims.
Retired Col. Armand Martin also killed by police had been to the VA for help.
Albuquerque police said Martin fired shots from inside this house in Ventana Ranch on Saturday, but that officers did not return fire. Instead, they said crisis negotiators tried talking to him for several hours.
APD Deputy Chief Erica Garcia said Martin had been treated at the VA hospital for significant mental health related issues.
Mark Christian Rock, 42, of Las Vegas killed himself with a gunshot wound to the head at the VA in Las Vegas. In Milwaukee another veteran shot himself at the VA and a DAV van driver witnessed it.
Not all the stories have such bad endings.
Geoffrey Jenista, 26, while facing serious criminal charges, is also now getting the mental help he needs from the Kansas City Police Department's crisis intervention team.
After Jenista returned to the United States, the troubled man ran afoul of the law. He was discharged from the Army in April and his life has been increasingly difficult since then. The officers promised to help do what they can for him just like they did Tuesday morning.
"He's a veteran who had served multiple tours overseas. He'd seen lots of combat. He was suffering from PTSD," Sgt. Michael Ward said. "Somebody that serves our country, you know, bravely like that, we're not going to turn our backs on him. We're going to try to help him."
Six Tour PTSD Iraq Veteran Getting Help After Standoff
An Iraq War combat veteran who held Northampton police on an armed standoff inside his girlfriend's borough home will serve four years of probation under a plea agreement that takes into account his post-traumatic stress disorder.
Scott P. Wines Jr., 29, served six tours in Iraq as a Marine and is now attending outpatient counseling twice a week to cope with what he experienced overseas, said defense attorney Rory Driscole.
"While it's not an excuse and Scott knows that, it helps explain what happened," Driscole told Northampton County Judge Jennifer Sletvold on Thursday.
These are the numbers that show how widespread untreated and wrongly treated combat PTSD is.
Largely unseen are those who came home with PTSD, the war's signature injury. The Department of Veterans Affairs says between 11 percent and 20 percent of the 2.6 million who served in both wars have PTSD. A Stanford University study said it could be as high as 35 percent — or as many as 910,000 men and women. And since 2000, more than 287,000 service members have been diagnosed with TBI, according to the Pentagon.
The latest VA budget has veterans pulling out their bullshit meters for a reason. It has all been done before. One "crisis" after another followed by more and more claims of Congress fixing the problems we see repeated. So exactly when do we see successes repeated?
We won't until every veteran in this country takes a stand. Until the healthy veterans show up and support the wounded and the ill. Until every family member of a veteran writes letters to their elected officials and demands they change what they are doing and apologize to veterans for what they have failed to do. Until all of us stop accepting the blame game when members of Congress are responsible for all of this.
Spending money on the DOD and the VA is not their only job. Each committee is responsible for what the VA does with the money. Failed program after failed program, but that doesn't stop them from spending more without seeing results. We keep waiting but we stopped hoping a long time ago.
Ask any Vietnam veteran what it has been like all these years and they will tell you horror stories as well as stories of great care they have had. The part that breaks their hearts the most is nothing has really changed over decades and seeing these stories still being reported as more veterans face such sad lives, it is like daggers to their hearts.
They spent years fighting to have PTSD recognized by the VA and treated. To see things this bad after all these years is inexcusable.
So what do younger veterans do? The same thing they did and still do. They stand up for all veterans.
Start with the simple fact that new veterans receive free care from the VA for 5 years. Too many don't enroll. They expect to be able to be seen as soon as they want help but never think of the other veterans already in line. They need to enroll as soon as they are discharged and not wait until they have a crisis.
VA Gov Veteran Data
VA Enrolled Veterans 9,111,955 with estimated Veteran patients using the VA in 2014 5,908,042
What if the rest of the almost 22 million veterans stood up and made sure that all veterans received the care they earned? What if all veterans eligible for care signed up for it even if they didn't think they needed anything yet? What would happen is that congress would be forced to do what they should have done before sending troops into Afghanistan and Iraq while there was already a backlog of claims and veterans waiting to be seen.
An under reported fact is that President Clinton's administration left 400,000 claims backlogged when President Bush sent troops into two wars, VA budget was budget short over a billion dollars when Jim Nicholson took over as Secretary of the VA by 2005. It got worse. By the time President Obama took over the chair there were over 800,000 claims in the backlog. It got worse again because as more and more veterans were in need of medical and mental healthcare, President Obama decided to do the right thing for other veterans shut out of claims for Agent Orange and PTSD to make it easier to have their claims approved causing a flood of veterans to file claims again. They had hope restored only to discover congress had not been so kind. They did not increase the VA budget enough to care for the influx.
|U.S. Marines carry a comrade wounded by an improvised explosive device to a waiting medevac helicopter, near the town of Marjah in Helmand Province in this August 21, 2010 file photo. NBC News|
The Veterans Community can complain all we want but until all of us realize the kind of power our numbers have, nothing will ever happen. Current military, veterans and families are well over 30 million. Think about that. Think about how the healthy being silent have left the wounded to fight for themselves.
It is beyond time for all of us to act and show up to be counted. Don't wait for congress to notice. Don't wait for another report of more and more suicides as Congress spends more and more money. The strong always need to carry the wounded and weak out of danger. Help them all stand up and be proud they served with the best they called brothers. We are family! Let's prove this family strong!