Share on Google Plus Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share on PInterest Share on Fark! Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon Tell A Friend 2 (2 Shares)  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites View Stats   27 comments

General News

VA Confirms 18 Vets Commit Suicide Everyday

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 3 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; (more...) ; ; ; ; ; , Add Tags  (less...) Add to My Group(s)

View Ratings | Rate It

Become a Fan
  (7 fans)
- Advertisement -

In a stunning admission, top officials at the Veterans Health Administration confirmed that the agency’s own statistics show that an average of 126 veterans per week —6,552 veterans per year—commit suicide, according to an internal email distributed to several VA officials.

Brig. Gen. Michael J. Kussman, the undersecretary for health at the VA, sent the email, dated Dec. 15, 2007. Kussman had inquired about the accuracy of a news report published that month claiming the suicide rate among veterans was 18 per day.

“McClatchy [Newspapers] alleges that 18 veterans kill themselves everyday and this is confirmed by the VA’s own statistics,” Kussman wrote. “Is that true? Sounds awful but if one is considering 24 million veterans.”

In an email response to Kussman, Ira Katz, the head of mental health at the VA, confirmed the statistics and added “VA’s own data demonstrate 4-5 suicides per day among those who receive care from us.”

This week, in a federal courthouse in San Francisco, that email will be cited as evidence that the VA has failed to properly treat veterans who suffer from PTSD and veterans who are suicidal. Those allegations were made in a class-action lawsuit filed against the VA by two veterans advocacy groups, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth, alleging a systematic breakdown at the VA has led to an epidemic of suicides. 

The organizations claim the VA, which has a backlog of 600,000 benefits claims to sort through, is unprepared to deal with cases of posttraumatic stress disorder among veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and has turned away veterans who have sought help for depression at VA hospitals. Some of those veterans later committed suicide, according to the lawsuit.

The groups want a federal judge to issue a preliminary injunction to force the VA to immediately treat veterans who show signs of PTSD and are at risk of suicide.

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can develop in a person who witnesses, or is confronted with, a traumatic event. PTSD is said to be the most prevalent mental disorder arising from combat.

- Advertisement -

According to a copy of the lawsuit filed in July 2007, “more than any previous war, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to produce a high percentage of troops suffering from PTSD,” due to the widespread use of improvised explosive devises, multiple rotations, the ambiguity of fighting combatants dressed as civilians, and the use of National Guard members and Reservists.

Those claims are now supported by a comprehensive study released by the RAND Corporation last week stating that about 300,000 U.S. troops sent to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from major depression or PTSD, and 320,000 received traumatic brain injuries.

Early Warnings Ignored

Prior to the U.S. Invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the VA issued a report to Pentagon and White House officials saying that it expected that the number of U.S. troops who would suffer from PTSD would reach a maximum of about 8,000.

But Paul Sullivan, the executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, told lawmakers those estimates were extremely low. He continued to sound early warning alarms about the extent of PTSD cases and the likelihood of veteran suicides during numerous appearances before Congress over the years. 
- Advertisement -

“The scope of PTSD in the long term is enormous and must be taken seriously.  When all of our 1.6 million service members eventually return home from Iraq and Afghanistan, based on the current rate of 20 percent, VA may face up 320,000 total new veterans diagnosed with PTSD,” Sullivan told a Congressional committee in July 2007. If America fails to act now and overhaul the broken DoD and VA disability systems, there may a social catastrophe among many of our returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.  That is why VCS reluctantly filed suit against VA in Federal Court...Time is running out.”

Sullivan has urged Congress to enact legislation to overhaul the VA.

“Congress should legislate a presumption of service connection for veterans diagnosed [with] PTSD who deployed to a war zone after 9/11,” Sullivan told lawmakers last year. “A presumption makes it easier for dedicated and hard-working VA employees to process veterans’ claims. This results in faster medical treatment and benefits for our veterans.”

Next Page  1  |  2  |  3


Jason Leopold is Deputy Managing Editor of and the founding editor of the online investigative news magazine The Public Record, He is the author of the National Bestseller, "News Junkie," a memoir. Visit (more...)

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon

Go To Commenting

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Follow Me on Twitter

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles
- Advertisement -
Google Content Matches:

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

CIA Watchdog Report Says Detainees Died During Interrogations

Whistleblower: BP Risks More Massive Catastrophes in Gulf

Newly Released E-Mails Reveal Cheney Pressured DOJ to Approve Torture

Army's "Spiritual Fitness" Test Comes Under Fire

Newly Declassified DOD Documents Reveal Detainees Tortured To Death

Voter Registration Group ACORN Long a Target of GOP Operatives


The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
18 people are discussing this page, with 27 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

     Mr. Leopold. Such a subje... by mikel paul on Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 5:46:37 PM
     just to update....San Fra... by mikel paul on Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 12:58:22 PM
Let's get a grip people. Given the size of the... by mikeusmc on Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 7:05:31 PM
The medical disability rate after WW II in our vet... by Leuren Moret on Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 8:28:18 PM
as of a year ago, the DoD only counted the suicide... by Michael Shaw on Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 11:05:22 PM
PTSD is triggered both by violence and the apprehe... by kwalsh on Wednesday, Apr 23, 2008 at 2:44:27 AM
Jason Leopold is at the forefront of investigative... by Jayne Lyn Stahl on Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 7:31:12 PM
I knew it was bad, just not this bad. More have se... by Gallaher on Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 8:40:39 PM
In my other business, I deal with the military-- m... by Rob Kall on Friday, May 2, 2008 at 9:55:37 PM
They don't report on the Iraq quagmire. MSM do... by shirley reese on Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 9:08:20 PM
Hi everyone, Thank you all so very much for these... by Jason Leopold on Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 10:43:37 PM
for a long time Jason and have always admired your... by Michael Shaw on Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 11:14:25 PM
Well, it's gone public as of this evening. Che... by Irvthom on Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 11:39:10 PM
The people in our country don't understand wha... by vincent passiatore on Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 12:05:44 AM
Vincent, Vincent, you have quite a story. 27 month... by mikeusmc on Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 3:05:52 PM
Sounds like "my war was tougher than your war... by kwalsh on Wednesday, Apr 23, 2008 at 6:21:02 PM
I'm not surprised.  I just found out toni... by Kenneth Barr on Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 12:15:50 AM
Thank you Mr. Leopold for this very sobering artic... by Munich on Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 1:01:03 AM
The VA is a secondary effect. War screws up soldie... by Bob Gormley on Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 7:25:45 AM
Mr. Barr, From your picture, I assume you are a mi... by mikeusmc on Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 2:23:41 PM
As writer Len Hart points out: ....the Bush path t... by CasaZaza on Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 2:49:58 PM
CasaZaZa, Just as Mr. Hart, you sound like a hyste... by mikeusmc on Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 3:16:08 PM
so I would choose not to enter into a discussion w... by CasaZaza on Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 7:52:31 PM
I would like to know who does GWB II and Dick Chen... by nestacal on Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 3:19:51 PM
I can remember when as a young army officer I real... by kwalsh on Wednesday, Apr 23, 2008 at 5:48:34 AM
Time and again we see support for the Bush/Cheney ... by gravity32 on Wednesday, Apr 23, 2008 at 7:55:19 AM
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 333-08April 22, 2008DoD Iden... by Gallaher on Wednesday, Apr 23, 2008 at 9:57:10 PM