Report Finds Despite VA’s Record Funding, Enrolled Veterans Attempting Suicide at Rate of 48 per Day

The US Government is Failing Miserably at Helping Veterans

by Michael Kelley
Business Insider, July 26, 2012

Earlier this week President Obama announced a “reverse bootcamp” for veterans returning from war in an attempt to overhaul the transition assistance program (TAP), which provides service members with information about benefits as well as career workshops.

Obama has been ambitious about trying to help veterans as he acknowledged Vietnam vets’ rights to claim compensation for more illnesses linked to Agent Orange (but not the water at Camp Lejeune or the chemicals at Fort McClellan), expanded education benefits for GIs and made it easier to file claims for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

But a new report from Phil Stewart of Reuters lays out that despite (and perhaps because of) these efforts the Obama administration is struggling to provide a safety net for veterans, and the numbers are pretty daunting.

The administration has blamed the economic crisis and ballooning deficits for the inability to provide for more veterans. “Fiscal reality set in,” a veterans’ advocate who provided information to the 2008 campaign told Stewart.

In 2008 the outgoing George W. Bush administration reportedly told Obama’s transition team that the VA apparatus “is broken, just play defense.”

So Obama should be commended for his work, but good intentions won’t make life any easier for the 1.6 million veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


• A record 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for service-related injuries and millions of other veterans remain ineligible for compensation and benefits.

• More than half of veterans who needed comprehensive mental-health evaluations had not received them within two weeks of initial contact (which is the VA’s target).

• A veteran within the VA healthcare system tries to commit suicide about once every half-hour.

• The VA processed more than 1 million pension and compensation claims in both 2010 and 2011, but the average time spent processing each claim grew from 2009 to 2011. 

• Despite staff increases, the ratio of VA mental-health patients per full-time mental-health worker was at 65 to 1 last year, roughly unchanged from 2006.

• Disability compensation claims that are stalled for more than 125 days in the VA system  increased fourfold from October 2009 to mid-July 2012 to 572,856 claims. Stewart notes that “Veterans returning home today join lines for disability payments much longer than those Obama called intolerable in 2008.”

• Unemployment among Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans was 12.1 percent in 2011 (national average was 8.9 percent). For 18- to 24-year-old veterans, the unemployment rate was 30 percent last year (nearly double the 16.1 percent rate for non-veterans in that age group.)

• The number of complaints against all employers for discrimination against service members has risen 73 percent from 2001 to 1,548 last year, and the federal government accounted for the single biggest number of complaints with 18 percent of the total.

• The VA created a national registry to track those who are homeless and also those at risk of becoming homeless – so far it has amassed more than 400,000 names (at least 67,000 are considered homeless).

— Phil Stewart, Reuters

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One Response

  1. I am surprised that there aren’t more suicides returning from these religious wars in the Middle East. We never should have reacted as Bush and his colleagues did in the first place. Seems to me we never belonged in these Wars….the enemy was truly within the White House and with their war mongers who don’t reason, only go for the jugular with lies and deceit. Our combat veterans are very intelligent and know this to be true. Killing civilians–babies, grandmothers, children, youth and families–collatoral damage–has to be one of the most horrendous experiences for any human being to witness….observing your battle buddies and squad brothers-sisters injured and dying as well. Watching a brother shoot his brains out has to be an enormous cry for help! We don’t know how much the human being can experience before the “lights go out”….every cell, organ, nerve and sense are ‘shocked’ and injured…the whole being-system–physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually is injured to the core. Healing, restoration, resilience with follow up and self-care plan with holistic and integrative health practices must be intensively and extensively employed. (Not Disorder Labels and psychiatric drugs.

    See the Ft.Bliss R & R Center as was once the World Premiere Integrative Health Center serving active duty, seriously injured Warriors & Families for 6 months & continuing and aftercare services as needed. Every soldier improved the quality of their lives, health and relationships. Many, if not most patients, were also physically injured along with the diagnosis of Chronic PTSD & TBI (for many). This served as an experiment for the Behavioral Health System and is now reduced to a 1 Month Program without the mission of restoration of injuries.

    Note: please visit my website and see the remarkable Ft. Bliss R & R Center that prevented numerous suicides and other hardships for our returning Warriors and their Families–everyone improved, go better. Sign our Petition and pass along, please.

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