Attacking the High Rate of Veteran Suicides

Lawmakers have reacted to recent news of the high incidence of suicides among veterans of the war on terror, calling for more specific information from VA and for specific proposals for remedies. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, has “invoked his oversight authority” to formally request more specific data from VA, according to a May 15 committee release. “We will not know the true cost of war until we know the true rate of suicides among veterans,” said Akaka, adding, “Until the VA mental health care system meets the needs of those who have served, we will continue to see the tragic consequence of veteran’s suicides.” Last year Akaka introduced new legislation to improve VA mental health care and is working to get it to the Senate floor. At a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing earlier this month, Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), panel chairman, commented, “Either the VA has not adequately attempted to determine the scope of the problem, which is an indictment of the VA’s basic competence, or the VA knows the extent of the problem, but has attempted to obfuscate and minimize the problem to veterans, Congress, and the American people, which is an indictment of the leadership of the entire department.”