Monday, April 21, 2008

Veteran's Administration HID Suicides - a Follow-up

We're following this story, and we are picking our jaws up off the floor over THIS revelation:

In San Francisco federal court Monday, attorneys for veterans' rights groups accused the VA of nothing less than a cover-up - deliberately concealing the real risk of suicide among veterans.

"The system is in crisis and unfortunately the VA is in denial," said Veterans Rights Attorney Gordon Erspamer.

The charges were backed by internal emails written by Dr. Ira Katz, the VA's head of Mental Health.

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.

And it appears that Katz went out of his way to conceal these numbers.

First, he titled his e-mail: "Not for the CBS News Interview Request."

He opened it with "Shh!" - as in keep it quiet - before ending with
"Is this something we should (carefully) address … before someone stumbles on it?"

Today we showed the e-mail to Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., who chairs the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

"This is disgraceful. This is a crime against our nation, our nation's veterans," Filner told CBS News. "They do not want to come to grips with the reality, with the truth."

And that's not all.

Last November when CBS Newsexposed an epidemic of more than 6,200 suicides in 2005 among those who had served in the military, Katz attacked our report.

"Their number is not, in fact, an accurate reflection of the rate," he said last November.

But it turns out they were, as Katz admitted in this e-mail, just three days later.

He wrote: there "are about 18 suicides per day among America's 25 million veterans."

CLICK the link and go to the original CBS News story--it's full of evidence that shows possible malfeasance and outright lying by the VA. It's worth the read, and they're doing a great job keeping us informed--show them some love. I think we'll be reading about the departure of Dr. Katz before too long...

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