Lawsuit Urges Military to Improve Suicide Preventi
> 4/22/2008 3:06:02 PM

The latest confirmed statistics are shocking: 18 of America's 25 million veterans commit suicide every day. And 20% do so while under the care of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Some contradictory studies have emerged in the past, but the new numbers, confirmed by military officials, are extremely unfortunate. And a new class-action lawsuit alleging insufficient treatment at the hands of the VA has again brought the ever-testy issue into the public eye. The suit, filed several months ago by two veterans advocacy groups, makes the general accusation that the VA has been dragging its feet in response to the mental health epidemic affecting American veterans, particularly those of the younger generation currently fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These groups demand that the military devote a greater share of its funding to hiring mental health professionals, improving related care for returning vets and placing a sharper focus on suicide prevention. Among their more specific points of contention: unacceptably long processing times for disability claims and an internal complaints system that should be renovated or eliminated in order to allow more veterans to take their grievances to court. Lawyers for the government counter by asserting that they have made considerable advances in their mental health program in the last three years in the face of dramatic rises in claims spurred most prominently by aging veterans who've recently retired and/or lost their employer health care plans. And they have indeed taken steps in the right direction, hiring nearly 4,000 mental health professionals since 2005 and creating a national prevention hotline for disturbed and potentially suicidal vets.

Does this lawsuit amount to a publicity campaign? The trial has no jury, and if successful it would shift a great deal of responsibility for VA matters into the hands of the presiding judge (himself a decorated veteran). This transfer of power is unorthodox and may prove impractical, but the advocates behind the suit seem to think they have no other choice. We can, to some degree and regardless of our personal opinions, thank the plaintiffs for the continuing media attention that this trial will hopefully provide. The matter at hand absolutely must remain part of our national discourse.

So what about the positive sides of this issue? The matter of suicide prevention should not be oversimplified for the sake of a sound bite. And the military's hot line is a very encouraging development whose influence will most likely continue to grow, and the plaintiffs in this lawsuit are pleased to see it. The most significant part of the hot line is a data network allowing counselors at a central call center, armed only with a name and social security number, to check veterans' medical records and dispatch local social workers or emergency personnel to attend to their needs, wherever they happen to live. This system makes for improved organizational capabilities and a greater familiarity with each individual case. Operators can take control of the situation only moments after receiving a call from a troubled vet, calling a chain of experts across the country into action. Officials estimate that the national call center receives approximately 130 calls a day and that most of the callers are either veterans who've recently returned from active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, aging Vietnam vets, or family and friends concerned about the welfare of their loved ones. In the first eight months of its existence, the center received more than 37,000 calls and sent "rescue" crews out to help over 700 suicidal veterans. They may very well have saved lives in many of these cases. And expanded ad campaigns could alert more servicemembers to the presence of this crucial resource.

Of course, the military should not have required a public outcry to spark the creation of this service. And the hot line is only a first step in the treatment of suicidal vets - a process for which the military must take responsibility. But at least recent scandals concerning the treatment of injured, depressed and traumatized veterans has pushed some of our public servants to act. We can only hope that the current lawsuit provokes the same proactive response from our government no matter what the final verdict happens to be. The well-being of the men and women who've served their country is far and away the most important variable in this equation.


If these soldiers rely on VA programs theywill only get worse. The drugs supplied aregood to try and if they work fine but then you'll probably need more drugs for theattendant sexual non performance.For the majority you are better off withoutthe antidepressants and anti psych drugs.The established medical model is NOTprepared to deal any of it. Taking vitaminsand supplements on your own is probablyworse. Go to a Certified Clinical Nutritionistand find one who is in on cutting edge treatments. For those on antidepressives if you don't have increased thoughts of suicide you mightfind yourself drinking more than normal.They work for a small minority. For mostit is guaranteed you will get some very weird side effects and you will be told to "give it time" as they increase the dose. In order towork a certain period must pass but after6 mos it is time to throw that stuff away ifnothing improves.
Posted by: vin 4/27/2008 5:31:07 AM

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