Friday, April 25, 2008

VA Ignores Facts, Bush Administration Goes To Court To Deny Mental Care For Veterans

A wise President, who was also a veteran of multiple wars, once said:

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no
matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they preceive the
veterans of earlier wars were Treated and Appreciated by their nation."

The issue of veterans affairs has seen an upsurge of interest in the past few weeks, as Dr. Ira Katz, an official in the Veteran's Affairs Department, is coming under fire from Congress, after giving misleading information to a CBS reporter, who was researching for a story about sucide rates among veterans.

During an interview given in November for the original CBS story, Dr. Katz told reporter Armen Keteyian that "There is no epidemic in suicide in the VA, but suicide is a major problem." When pressed for an answer to explain the VA's inability to come up with any suicide statistics among veterans, Katz replied "That research is ongoing."

However, "After a public records request, the VA provided CBS News with data that showed there were a total of 790 attempted suicides by VA patients in the entire year of 2007." This number does not match up at all with a private email sent by Dr. Katz to a colleague in which he states that the VA has identified "about 1000 suicide attempts a month in patients we see at are medical facilities," a far cry from his public estimate of 790 a year.

Compared with the number of suicide attempts, the number of actual suicides is monstrous in comparision. CBS news identified a total of 6,256 suicides in 2005 among veterans of the "war on terror," double the national average, although that number does not include the 5 states who refused to provide their suicide statistics for the CBS report.

As he did with the statistics for attempted suicides, Dr. Katz again played a two-faced persona. Katz declared that the "number is not, in fact, an accurate reflection of the rate."

Nevertheless, Dr. Katz told colleagues in another private email that "There are about 18 suicides per day among America's 25 million veterans," and "4-5 suicides per day among those who receive care from us [the VA]." Katz goes on to add that his figures are ironically "supported by the CBS numbers," which he disparaged previously in public.

In his later email titled "Shh!" Dr. Katz asks colleagues if the suicide statistics should be buried by dropping them into "a general release about our suicide prevention efforts," "before somebody stumbles onto them."

Yet, at a trial yesterday in San Francisco, brought about by a lawsuit from a veteran's group, VA officials remained non-compliant as usual, even defending a two-month old letter from Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake which claimed that only "144 combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed suicide between October 2001 and December 2005," although the VA's own director of mental health said drastically otherwise in an email only 8 days later.

Our President has said that "Support of our veterans has been a high priority in my administration," and that "health care for our veterans is a top priority." Nevertheless, President Bush has substantially raised prescription drug prices for veterans during his tenure, and in 2005 instituted a new $250 fee for veterans to pay in order for them to continue "the privilege of using government health care."

Vice President Cheney even defended the move, saying that the 2005 budget in which the new fee was first started, "was the tightest budget that has been submitted since we got here." In fact, the 2005 budget was $200 billion higher than the previous one in 2004, and more than $500 billion higher than the Bush administration's first budget in 2001.

In February, Bush administration lawyers argued that veterans from the "war on terror," have no right to "any particular medical service" other than what the VA deems is best. This is due to another class-action lawsuit against the Bush administration by veterans who are being denied mental health care because the administration alleges that money appropriated by Congress for that purpose was meant "to authorize, but not require, medical [mental] care for veterans."

This begs the question, why else was the money appropriated if it was not meant for mental care? Imagine the administration using the same reasoning for defense appropriations. I hardly doubt I would ever hear administration lawyers denying the military tanks or planes because they claimed that the money appropriated for them did not "require" their use.

Yet, we have a President who fights in court to deny mental care for veterans while officials at his Veterans Affairs Department tells each other in emails that 18 veterans are committing suicide every day, while denying the very same facts in public.

The president has said that our veterans have created "a debt that we can never fully repay." One way to start would be to give them the medical care that they need.


Anonymous said...

I am in full agreement that veterans should be taken care of and I have personally donated money to various organizations for this purpose. I do not know who Dr. Katz is, but I do know that CBS is not much better than The New York Times when it comes to honesty.

To be sure, it is truly sad that anybody would even think of commiting suicide and it is paticularly sad that the rate is higher among Veterans. I knew a Veteran (who was discharged early on) who was suicidal, and had various issues prior to entering the military.

On a positive note, Veterans are much less likely to commit serious crimes than the average American, a fact that is often disputed by the far Left in this country.


Peter said...

"On a positive note, Veterans are much less likely to commit serious crimes than the average American, a fact that is often disputed by the far Left in this country."

I never even brought that up, the blog post was about suicide, not "serious crime."

This is far too serious a problem to be blown away with positive spin.

Anonymous said...

I realize that you did not bring up the issue of crime and suicide is not a crime. I further realize that suicide is not at all a positive thing. I do however, think that it is important that Americans know that their are positive things about the troops. While it is true that you personally have not insulted our troops, it is a fact that many on your side of the argument have and it is important that Americans see both sides of the story and see something positive about about troops.

We hear enough negative spin from the Left, it is high time that there is at least something positive said.


Peter said...

Ignoring the problem is no way to solve it.

Anonymous said...

True, problems do not get solved by ignoring them, but it is interesting which problems you want solved and which ones you do not.


Peter said...

What "problems" do I not want to solve? It seems to me like YOU'RE the one who doesn't want to solve problems.

Anonymous said...

As an optimists, generally speaking, I believe that are problems are not as extreme as many make them out. Yes, suicide is a problem, yes the deficit is a problem, ect. but this is beginning to look like 60 minutes; America is full of problems, but no solutions. I have lived long enough and seen enough to realize that despite the fact that America is not perfect, on balance it is the best country and it is a better country than it was.

Yes we have problems to solve, but if we continue to look at the glass as half empty and see a problem everywhere with little good and no solutions, I fear we will all look like fruitloops. This is not needed.


Anonymous said...

Dear Ohio Joe, whom we greatly respect for your tenacity and patriotism:

Nobody likes to unnecessarily dwell on problems, and, as you say, we must unhesitatingly recognize what is positive and good.

However, the fact that this "conservative" Administration has ballooned the national debt from $5.7 to $9.3 trillion represents an enormous debt that our children will be paying off for decades.

Taking a lesson from the past, Gerry Ford's "Whip Inflation Now" button represented an exercise in positive thinking which attempted to put an end to the runaway inflation which was threatening the future financial health of us all.

Fortunately, Ronald Reagan came on the scene to tell us that, although Ford meant well, all the positive thinking in the world was not going to solve our problems, and unless drastic concrete measures were taken, America's days as a leader of the free world were numbered.

Many resented Reagan's "audacity" in challenging a sitting President back in 1976, but we have all come to realize that Reagan's policies were instrumental in saving America from both runaway inflation and outlandish interest rates.

Part of being a patriotic American means speaking truth to power, even if that means taking on a member of your own political party.

What President Bush has done in taking a budget surplus to the present state of massive debt in 8 short years has been hugely irresponsible and anything but conservative.

We can never say, "My party right or wrong," but rather should say,
"America's interests come first."


Anonymous said...

Jasna Gorak:

I do appreciate your well thought out comments. While you and I disagree strongly on a few issues, I do believe that you are a good American and a good Catholic, I have seen your comments on other web-sites. I do have to agree with you that neither our country or party is perfect and once in while things need to be said to right wrongs if you will. However, despite the various challenges that our country faces, I refuse to believe that things are as bad as they were in the 1970s. I further think it is unfair for our current President to receive all the blame for whatever problems our country faces. Many issues were challenges way before the current administration was elected and these same issue will remain with us for a while.

Since our government has 3 branches, not all blame (or credit) should go to the executive. We the people also have great responsibility for our own lives and for the well being of the country.

While I know it is apples to oranges, I certainly disagree that the Conservative movement and the Catholic church is as bad off in American than in my homeland. Perhaps if things go a certain direction, my mind will change in 4 or 8 years, but I do not feel that now is the time to give up on the GOP.

On the one hand I do fear that Mr. McCain will take us in a slightly bad direction, but I think he has many good qualities and he is much better than the alternative. Prior to become an American, I have voted for smaller parties rather than support the lesser of the two parties. Perhaps that is what was needed at the time, but I tell you the results were painful as vote splitting cause even bigger problems.

I am truly grateful to live in a country where my democratic rights are greater, where I can go to Church when I want and not worry about the state trashing it and where I have greater economic freedom. I may be naive, be I still believe that things are good despite the various challenges that our country faces. But, I must admit also that again despite disagreement, I am glad that you are defending religious freedom in our country.


NY Catholic Mom said...

OJ, it is good to be reminded of the freedoms we have here which much of the world does not share.

However, we have to be wary of the ever-present tendencies in governmet to reduce our liberties.

That is why we are so hard on the present administration. If America continues on this path, our independence and sovereignty will soon disappear and along with it all our personal freedoms.

Anonymous said...

I guess you have a point NY Catholic Mom, while I have the advantage of being able to appreciate what I have in America relative to what I had before, perhaps I risk falling into the trap of complacency. In the end, I do not wish to lose the freedoms which I have gained.