Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sad and pathetic

Yesterday in a federal court in San Francisco, attorneys for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans accused the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs of covering-up the epidemic of suicides among veterans.

At first blush it seems as though the department had indeed covered this information up… and emails written by Dr. Ira Katz, the VA's head of Mental Health, support this accusation.

Much of this stemmed from a CBS News investigation of veterans suicides late last year, at that time CBS reported that there were 6,200 veteran suicides in 2005.
At that time Katz claimed that the number “is not, in fact, an accurate reflection of the rate” and said that there “is no epidemic in suicide in VA” and that the number of attempts were 790 and NOT as high as CBS News had suggested.

Now emails that Katz had sent about the problem have been leaked, and it’s an absolutely disgusting display from someone who is allegedly in charge of looking out for veteran’s interests.

Three days after Katz appeared on CBS News, he sent an e-mail that acknowledged that there were “about 18 suicides today among America’s 25 million veterans,” a fact which he said “is supported by the CBS numbers.”

In another email from February 2008, Katz said to his top media adviser; “Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among veterans we see in our medical facilities.”

But it gets worse… Katz not only titled that email ‘Not for the CBS News Interview Request’ but opened it with “Shh!” and ended it by asking a question that someone in his position should not even have to ask; “Is this something we should (carefully) address … before someone stumbles on it?”

Stay classy Ira…

This past Monday, CBS News showed the e-mail to Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) who was visibly pissed and said; “This is disgraceful. This is a crime against our nation, our nation's veterans. […] They do not want to come to grips with the reality, with the truth.”

What does this mean? That the head of Veterans Affairs purposefully withheld information because he was worried more about being embarrassed then he was about veterans… a sad statement from an administration that has used them like they were their own personal toy soldiers.

The case is now in trial and, according to an article in The San Francisco Chronicle; “U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti is presiding over the nonjury trial, scheduled to last two weeks. Conti, a conservative jurist and World War II veteran appointed to the bench by former President Richard Nixon, ruled in January that the case could go to trial. In doing so, he rejected the government's argument that civil courts have no authority over the VA's medical decisions or how it handles grievances. If the advocates can prove their claims, Conti said in his ruling, they would show that ‘thousands of veterans, if not more, are suffering grievous injuries as the result of their inability to procure desperately needed and obviously deserved health care.’”

This is criminal… to ignore the problems of veterans who have risked their lives for the freedom of this country is not only pathetic and sad, but extremely disgusting. Katz needs to be criminally charged, Congress needs to launch an independent investigation and someone needs to be held accountable.

This isn’t the end of this story…

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