Sunday, July 18, 2010

Army suicides up; VA outreach down. Harry Mitchell wants answers

This week, from the Stripes Central blog at Stars and Stripes -
More soldiers killed themselves last month than any other month on record. There were 21 active-duty and 11 reserve soldier suicides in June, including seven in Iraq or Afghanistan, the Army reported on Thursday.

The news came just weeks after Gen. Peter Chiarelli told Congress that the Army was encouraged by a 30 percent drop in suicides among active-duty soldiers this year compared to last year at this time. Although he said there was more to do, he thought the decrease showed the Army's prevention efforts were working.

But this latest data reflects more of the same. Through the first six months of 2009, 88 active-duty soldiers committed suicide. For this year, that number is 80. The trend is most troubling among reserve component soldiers; those deaths jumped from 42 to 65.
On Wednesday, Arizona Congressman Harry Mitchell chaired a hearing of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee looking into the efforts of the Veterans Administration to reach out to veterans suffering from PTSD and other service-related disorders. (Air Force Times coverage here)

In his opening statement, Mitchell questioned why the VA had discontinued successful public announcements, especially during a period of rising need. 
He called for increased, not reduced, efforts to reach out to veterans suffering from long-term effects of their service.
From a press release -
The VA can't just sit back and wait for veterans to come to them. They need to go to the veterans."

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