Friday, January 29, 2010

Hold the Military Accountable For Negligent Medical Care

Urge Your Representative in Congress to Support

H.R. 1478: The Carmelo Rodriguez Military Medical Accountability Act

Sgt. Carmelo Rodriguez, who was a decorated Marine and platoon leader in Iraq, died of skin cancer last year after a series of extraordinary mistakes and misdiagnoses made by military medical personnel. The cancer spread throughout Rodriguez's body and weakened him to the point that he went from being an athletic 190 pound man to weighing less than 80 pounds. Carmelo left behind a loving family, including a seven year old son. His family, however, has no recourse for this tragedy. A 1950 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, known as the Feres Doctrine, denies servicemen and women the ability to seek damages from the federal government for medical malpractice. Unfortunately, the Rodriguez family is not alone.

H.R. 1478, which New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey authored, holds the military accountable for its responsibility to military personnel and if enacted, will encourage the steps needed to improve military care so that more families do not experience what the Rodriguez family has endured.

It is imperative that the United States Congress put our military personnel on equal footing with all Americans. Joining the military should not mean that one has to give up his or her right to hold medical providers accountable.

What can you do to help?

1) Go to

2) Type in your zip code to find your member of Congress

3) Call your member's Washington D.C. office and confidently share the following message:

Or, if you already know the name of your member of Congress, call the House of Representatives' switchboard and ask to be patched through to that office: (202) 224-3121.

"Hi, my name is (your name), and I am a constituent of (your member of Congress). I have a message that I would like you to share with the Congressperson and the legislative assistant handling defense or judiciary issues.

"I ask that (he/she) co-sponsor H.R. 1478, The Carmelo Rodriguez Military Medical Accountability Act. Our servicemen and women already make tremendous personal sacrifices by serving in our military; giving up the right to hold their medical providers accountable for negligent care should not be one of them. I respectfully request a written response and can be reached at (address, phone number). Thank you."
--submitted by Barb Cragnotti

Friday, January 22, 2010

Soldier's Mother Expects Suicide Finding

The mother of a U.S. soldier who grew up in Colonie says she expects military investigators to to conclude her daughter killed herself.

"It's going to come down a suicide," says Colleen Murphy, "and then there's going to be a fight." Murphy says she does not believe her daughter's death was suicide and suggested to CBS 6 News reporter Craig Smith the prospect of exhuming her daughter's body to help prove it.

According to the military, 29-year-old Staff Sergeant Amy Seyboth Tirador died last year on November 4 from a non-combat related injury. No other details have been released to reporters. "Please understand that we go to great lengths to ensure we have all the information possible and investigate the deaths of soldiers very thoroughly before making a final determination in the death," said Chris Grey, the Chief of Public Affairs for the USA Criminal Investigation Command, in an e-mail. Grey said that generally, if a case is completed and ruled a suicide that determination would be made public.

According to Murphy, investigators have asked her questions that lead her to believe that other scenarios have been ruled out and that investigators are heading toward a finding of suicide.

Murphy and Tirador's father, Gerard Seyboth have said their daughter was shot in the back of the head and they say it was not an accident. They have not suggested any theories on what may have happened. They say their daughter worked as an Arabic-speaking translator and interrogator in Iraq. Seyboth described his daughter as a "high-profile target" because of the nature of her work.

-- submitted by Patti Woodard

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Army Releases December Suicide Date

The Army released suicide data today for the month of December. Among active-duty soldiers, there were ten potential suicides: one has been confirmed as suicide, and nine remain under investigation. For November, the Army reported 11 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, three have been confirmed as suicides, and eight remain under investigation.

There were 160 reported active-duty Army suicides during 2009. Of these, 114 have been confirmed, and 46 are pending determination of manner of death. During 2008, there were 140 suicides among active-duty soldiers.

During December 2009, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were six potential suicides. For the year 2009, among that same group, there were 78 total suicides. Of those, 49 were confirmed as suicides and 29 are pending determination of the manner of death. For 2008, there were 57 suicides among reserve soldiers who were not on active duty.

"There's no question that 2009 was a painful year for the Army when it came to suicides. We took wide-ranging measures last year to confront the problem, from the service-wide stand-down and chain-teach program, to enhanced suicide prevention programs and guidance for our Army units, and the suicide prevention research through our partnership with the National Institute of Mental Health," said Col. Christopher Philbrick, deputy director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force.

SIn 2010, the Army will continue to update and conduct suicide prevention training and improve procedures to ensure soldiers and families receive the support they need when undergoing key transitions, such as moving to another duty station or separating from the Army.

As part of the ongoing Army Campaign Plan for Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, and Suicide Prevention, the Army Suicide Prevention Task Force will complete a thorough analysis and assessment of each of the Army's current suicide prevention programs to determine which are most effectively meeting the needs of the Army community.

"Our assessment will give us the data we need to make decisions about how our programs should be expanded or adjusted, while at the same time maintaining our focus on saving soldiers' lives," Philbrick added.

The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at .

Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at: and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at .

Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center. Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental U.S. is 1-800-342-9647. Their website address is Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource website for dialing instructions for their specific location.

The DCoE Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at and at .

Information about the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at

--verbatim official DOD Press Release

Lessons Unlearned

From the Seattle Weekly:

Lessons Unlearned: Pentagon Report on the Massacre at Fort Hood Echoes The Murders at Camp Liberty

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bereaved Kin Push for Military Condolence Letters

To read this article in The New York Times, click here.

Grieving families forgotten

The families of nearly all service members who die in Iraq or Afghanistan, whether they are killed in action or die of non-combat injuries or illnesses, receive a letter of condolence from Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Gates deserves commendation for the time and care he takes with these notes, which express gratitude for the service of the deceased and the sacrifices of the family.

But some families do not receive such letters of condolence: the families of troops who die by their own hand in the war zones.

Pentagon officials say there is no official policy to exclude families of suicide victims; it’s simply the way it’s always been done — “going back years, if not decades,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said in a December news conference.

That is no excuse for ignoring the pain of these families’ loss, which they feel no less keenly than do families of troops killed in action.

Failing to give official thanks to these families also furthers the harmful belief ingrained in military culture that service members who develop mental health problems in combat are somehow weak, their service somehow tainted.

The suicide rate is at a record high in the military. That suggests troops today are struggling to cope with truly extraordinary levels of mental and emotional stress.

Giving condolence letters to the families of suicide victims would send a powerful message of support and serve as a signal that the service of their loved ones was as valued and honorable as the service of those who died in combat.

Gates should show the same compassion to all families who sacrifice a loved one in wartime service, no matter how they die.

--submitted by Patti Woodard

More on this topic:

Virginia Lawmakers Debate How to Honor Fallen Soldiers