UPHOLDING THE PROMISE: President Obama Must Show Leadership to Solve VA-DoD Suicide Epidemic, 1 Million Backlogged VA Claims, New Veterans Report Says

Since taking over as commander-in-chief, at least 23,000 veterans and service members have died by suicide, according to data reported in 2008 by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and the Department of Veterans Affairs. As Obama prepares himself and his cabinet for the second term of his presidency, a new report from the Center for a New American Security titled, “Upholding the Promise: A Strategy for Veterans and Military,” says the president must confront two serious problems on veterans issues: rampant suicides and more than a million unprocessed veterans benefits claims, mostly filed by combat-wounded men and women who volunteered to fight for America during the two military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Getty)

CNAS Report Warns Obama Faces Hard Choices for Veterans in Second Term

by Steve Vogel
Washington Post, Nov. 10, 2012

A report being issued this week by the Center for a New American Security warns that the Obama administration will “face an array of hard choices” involving veterans and the military community as it tries to cope with problems ranging from military suicide to veterans disability claims during the president’s second term.

“These choices will be made more difficult by significant downward pressure on spending, requiring the next administration to make hard choices with profound implications for the men and women who serve us in uniform, and those who came before them, as well as for our national security,” the report from the Washington national security think tank says in its executive summary.

Click here to read the full report.

“Upholding the Promise: Supporting Veterans and Military Personnel in the Next Four Years,” which is to be released Friday, is written by Phillip Carter, a senior fellow at the center and a former Army officer who served in Iraq and later as a political appointee in the Obama administration, responsible for detainee policy at the Defense Department.

The report identifies three broad priority areas for the Obama administration. The first includes issues such as military suicides, combat stress and veteran homelessness, which “must be decisively addressed by the next administration, in ways that exceed the work done during the past four years, simply because veterans and military personnel continue to suffer.”

The second area of priority would be to “make substantially more progress” in improving government service, chief among them reversing the growth of the claims backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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DISPOSABLE SOLDIERS DOCTRINE? Top Army Officer Gen Raymond Odierno Appears Oblivious to Army’s Greatest Future Challenge, Rampant Soldier Suicides  

The Army’s most senior officer by position, Army Chief of Staff Gen Raymond Odierno, recently spoke at a Washington, D.C. event to outline the future challenges facing the Army. The four-star general did not mention the epidemic of suicides among soldiers under his leadership. In 2012, the rate of suicide in the Army is on track to set a new all-time record since suicide statistics have been collected and reported publicly. At least 330 soldiers will die by suicide in 2012 at the current rate of nearly one per day. Through the month of September, at least 248 soldiers are thought to have died from suicide in 2012, according to DoD figures. (DoD)

Future of the Army

by General Ray Odierno
C-SPAN, Nov. 1, 2012

BLOGBACK: Army Chief of Staff Gen Raymond Odiernio spoke at length about the Army’s current and future rolls within the Defense Department during a briefing at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. The four-star general and top Army leader omitted any mention of the ongoing epidemic of soldier suicides within his service branch. One may perhaps conclude that the Army has accepted the unusually high rate of suicide as simply a cost of doing business. By avoiding the suicide issue altogether — an issue which DoD leader Leon Panneta described as one of the agency’s ‘top priorities’ — Odierno has essentially followed the lead of his commander-in-chief. President Obama has also carefully avoided discussions of military suicides in public; most notably during the three televised debates with GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney (Romney also has avoided speaking of soldier suicides during the debates). According to the DoD and VA’s own data, at least 7,000 service members and veterans are killing themselves every year. The suicide situation seems to have evolved into America’s new ‘dirty little secret.’

General Ray Odierno talked about the future of the Army. Some of the topics he mentioned were the Defense Department budget, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on gays and lesbians in the military, and global threats. He said the Army had made deeper cuts than other branches of the military recently, and he vowed to maintain readiness at all costs. General Odierno also answered questions from members of the audience.

View the full video briefing: