Wednesday, April 28, 2010


VA will not produce Dr. Robert Petzel and Tammy Duckworth to testify at Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing.

The press release below explains it all.

Congressman Harry E. Mitchell

Arizona’s Fifth Congressional District


April 26, 2010


Mitchell Demands Accountability from VA

Ongoing Delays, Non-Compliance by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Causes Hearing Postponement

WASHINGTON – Late last week, U.S. Rep. Harry Mitchell, Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee for the House Veterans Affairs Committee, announced the postponement of a hearing to examine VA outreach efforts to veterans at risk for suicide due to an emerging pattern of delays and non-compliance with subcommittee requests for witnesses and information by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

"Many of our returning veterans and those who served in past generations bear wounds that can't be seen and are difficult to diagnose,” said Mitchell. “We can't wait for them to come to the VA. The VA needs to go to them, be held accountable for their action or inaction and be transparent with the progress of their efforts.”

The hearing, “Examining the Progress of Suicide Prevention Outreach Efforts at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,” was scheduled for April 28, 2010. The hearing was to examine the progress of suicide prevention outreach efforts to veterans – many of whom are not being treated by the VA – who have committed or attempted suicide. The subcommittee had requested Undersecretary for Health, Dr. Robert Petzel, and Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, L. Tammy Duckworth appear to testify, but the VA refused to produce them.

A new hearing date has not yet been set.

On Friday, Mitchell’s subcommittee notified the VA that the hearing would be postponed due to ongoing VA delays and non-compliance. Mitchell also wrote to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki urging the Secretary to comply with requests made by Mitchell’s Subcommittee and other members of Congress on issues critically important to veterans.

“Unfortunately this is not the first time I’ve expressed my concerns regarding requests going unanswered or unreasonably delayed. Additionally, as Chairman, I have received complaints from other Members of Congress that their requests for information from the Department are going unanswered or unreasonably delayed. Based on our Subcommittee’s recent experience with the Department, I am hardly in a position to dispute them,” Mitchell wrote.

As Chairman of the Veterans Affairs' Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Mitchell has repeatedly called upon the VA to increase outreach to veterans who need mental health services and are at risk of suicide. Out of an estimated veteran population of 25 million veterans, only about 8 million veterans are enrolled for health care services through the VA. [Source: U.S. Census Bureau, October 16, 2008; Department of Veterans Affairs, April 17, 2009]

In the wake of an alarming epidemic of veterans committing suicide and months of pressure from Mitchell, he convinced the VA to reverse its long-standing self-imposed ban on television advertising and launch a nationwide public awareness campaign to inform veterans and their families about where they can turn for help. The first public service announcement, promoting a 1-800 telephone suicide prevention hotline, featured current CSI: New York and former Forrest Gump star Gary Sinise. [Source: CNN, May 12, 2009]

Mitchell has previously held numerous hearings on veteran suicides and mental health care, as well as suicide prevention and outreach. His efforts resulted in the VA’s reversal of its earlier policy prohibiting the use television media to reach out to service men and women who suffer from mental health disorders when returning from war. [Source: “VA to Test Public Service Ads,” CBS News, July 14, 2008]

The nationwide expansion of the VA’s public campaign has demonstrated success in saving lives. The hotline received over 160, 000 calls since its inception in 2007. Overall, more than 16,135 veterans were referred to VA medical facilities for care.

Monday, April 26, 2010

18 Veterans Commit Suicide Each Day

By Rick Maze - Staff writer, The Army Times

Posted : Saturday Apr 24, 2010 9:27:34 EDT

Troubling new data show there are an average of 950 suicide attempts each month by veterans who are receiving some type of treatment from the Veterans Affairs Department.

Seven percent of the attempts are successful, and 11 percent of those who don’t succeed on the first attempt try again within nine months.

The numbers, which come at a time when VA is strengthening its suicide prevention programs, show about 18 veteran suicides a day, about five by veterans who are receiving VA care.

Access to care appears to be a key factor, officials said, noting that once a veteran is inside the VA care program, screening programs are in place to identify those with problems, and special efforts are made to track those considered at high risk, such as monitoring whether they are keeping appointments.

A key part of the new data shows the suicide rate is lower for veterans aged 18 to 29 who are using VA health care services than those who are not. That leads VA officials to believe that about 250 lives have been saved each year as a result of VA treatment.

VA’s suicide hotline has been receiving about 10,000 calls a month from current and former service members. The number is 1-800-273-8255. Service members and veterans should push 1 for veterans’ services.

Dr. Janet Kemp, VA’s national suicide prevention coordinator, credits the hotline with rescuing 7,000 veterans who were in the act of suicide — in addition to referrals, counseling and other help.

Suicide attempts by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans remains a key area of concern. In fiscal 2009, which ended Sept. 30, there were 1,621 suicide attempts by men and 247 by women who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, with 94 men and four women dying.

In general, VA officials said, women attempt suicide more often, but men are more likely to succeed in the attempt, mainly because women use less lethal and less violent means while men are more likely to use firearms.

Suicide attempts among veterans appear to follow those trends, officials said.

--submitted by Lois Vanderbur

Saturday, April 24, 2010

G.I.'s Describe Despair and Isolation in Trauma Units

COLORADO SPRINGS — A year ago, Specialist Michael Crawford wanted nothing more than to get into Fort Carson’s Warrior Transition Battalion, a special unit created to provide closely managed care for soldiers with physical wounds and severe psychological trauma.

A strapping Army sniper who once brimmed with confidence, he had returned emotionally broken from Iraq, where he suffered two concussions from roadside bombs and watched several platoon mates burn to death. The transition unit at Fort Carson, outside Colorado Springs, seemed the surest way to keep suicidal thoughts at bay, his mother thought.

Click here to read the rest of the story in the New York Times.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Once Branded a Coward, He Fights for PTSD Victims

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) ??? They call him the angry guy now. Even his friends. And at this moment, on a snowy evening when he should be home, putting his son to bed, Andrew Pogany is, in fact...

To read the entire story,

--submitted by Lois Vanderbur

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Army Releases March 2010 Suicide Data

 The Army released suicide data today for the month of March. Among active-duty soldiers in March, there were 13 (11 active Army; one Army National Guard; one Army Reserves) potential suicides: one (active Army) has been confirmed as suicide, and 12 (10 active Army; one Army National Guard; one Army Reserves) remain under investigation. For February, the Army reported 14 potential suicides (11 active Army; one Army National Guard; two Army Reserves) among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, two of those (two active Army) have been confirmed as suicides, and 12 (nine active Army; one Army National Guard; two Army Reserves) remain under investigation.

During March, among reserve-component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were eight (eight Army National Guard; no Army Reserves) potential suicides: none have been confirmed; all eight remain under investigation. For February, among that same group, there were eight (six Army National Guard; two Army Reserves) potential suicides. Of those, five (three Army National Guard; two Army Reserves) were confirmed as suicides and three (three Army National Guard) are pending determination of the manner of death.

For reference, the Army's total for 1st Quarter Calendar Year 2009 was 53 for active-duty and 23 for not-on-active-duty. For 1st Quarter Calendar Year 2010, the totals were 39 for active-duty and 32 for not-on-active-duty.

"In partnership with the National Institute of Mental Health and civilian research institutions, the Army is preparing to launch several large representative surveys of soldiers as a major component of an ongoing five-year study," said Col. Chris Philbrick, director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force. "The goal of the study is to provide the tools and information that will not only help the Army mitigate suicides and suicidal behavior, but will help our country address the problem of suicide among all Americans."

"The Army Suicide Prevention Task Force is completing a review of more than 600 programs related to health promotion, risk reduction and suicide prevention," Philbrick said. The Army intends to refine programs and focus on those that provide commanders the best tools to address the key issues that cause behavioral health concerns."

"To help commanders with local concerns regarding suicides, the Army recently established a Specialized Suicide Augmentation Response Team, Philbrick said. "This is a team of experts that can be dispatched to augment local command response to an increase, identify gaps in policies and procedures, and offer recommendations for improvement."

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, and 365 days a year.

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

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

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

-- verbatim, DoD Announcement

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sgt. Convicted in Case that Grew from Army Suicide

Sgt. Convicted in Case that Grew from Army Suicide
to read the article, click here.

--submitted by Cilla McCain