113TH CONGRESS: The Theatre Continues …

MILLER: President Obama Must Help Stop Patient Deaths, Bring Accountability to VA

by the House Veterans Affairs Committee Public Relations Office
July 11, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – On May 21, 2013, Chairman Jeff Miller wrote President Obama to request his assistance in addressing a rash of suicides, deaths and other serious patient-care issues at Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers across the country. After nearly two months without a response from the president, Chairman Miller today released the letter (read it here) along with the following statement:

“A pattern of heartbreaking veteran deaths, suicides and a host of other patient safety issues have cast a dark shadow over VA medical centers around the country. For months we have tried in vain to compel VA leaders to take meaningful steps to prevent future adverse incidents by holding accountable VA employees and managers responsible for letting patients fall through the cracks. Unfortunately, department officials seem more intent on issuing bureaucratic slaps on the wrist than the sort of serious punishments required to send a message that substandard care for veterans will not be tolerated. What’s more, patient deaths apparently aren’t even enough to prevent failing VA executives from receiving huge performance bonuses and glowing performance reviews. Because these issues are long-standing, systemic, and evidently immune to the current structure of accountability within VA, I believe President Obama’s direct involvement and leadership is required to help us end the culture of complacency that is engulfing the Veterans Health Administration and compromising patient safety.”

– Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

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WAY OFF THE MARK: Tennessee Newspaper Appears to Have Joined DoD in Military Suicide Propoganda

WAY OFF THE MARK: Tennessee Newspaper Appears to Have Joined DoD in Military Suicide Propoganda

No Easy Answers for Military Suicide
Deployments, combat, PTSD don’t explain majority of cases

by The Tennessean
July 14,2013

BLOGBACK: First point to be made here is that DoD and VA both are intentionally clumsy when it comes to tracking all matters related to the suicides and deaths associated with “high-risk” behavior, ie motorcycle racing, binge-drinking on prescribed medications (widely labled as accidents and excluded from suicide data). The claim is, “We just don’t know and we cannot conclude these deaths as suicides; and therefore these [under-reported] deaths [many hundreds per year] do not count against the rising suicide numbers.”

Now, to the point of TMSR headline at the top …

This publication likely has intentionally joined so many others by regurgitating in print a very cleverly-crafted DoD talking point –an absolutely ridiculous assertion — that has been successfully pushed forward through through a complicit, cooperative and cordial corporate media corps.

The mistake simply is this:

When one seeks to explain or mention military suicide rates against those civilian suicides in the same demographic, there continues to be a huge mistake in the count. It is an absolute falacy, a lie … but based in “truthiness,” as the wondeful Mr. Steven Colbert has many times said. To make the military-civilian demographic comparison hold up under serious analysis, one must take the civilian demographic and purge this group of all those completed suicides who would not have ever qualified for military service in the first place.

Let me say that again, maybe you did not hear me clearly …

To make the military-civilian demographic comparison hold up under serious analysis, one must take the civilian demographic and purge this group of all those completed suicides who would not have ever qualified for military service in the first place.

The current message on recruiting from DoD is that about two thirds of age-qualified prospective military applicants are not qualified for military service on medical, moral or mental grounds.

So for this newspaper — or any news organization for that fact — to look past this glaring “factoid” is a journalistic sin at best. Shameful and disgraceful in this writer’s best judgement. Try again Tennessean, and tell your friends.

CLARKSVILLE, TENN. — She was a well-liked, exemplary Fort Campbell soldier, a loving mother and wife on a clean, upward career trajectory in the Army that she loved. And she was the last person anyone thought was at risk for suicide.

Right up until the moment she plunged a knife into her own neck.

No one saw it coming – not family, friends, fellow soldiers, health professionals or police, or the Fort Campbell Army officer detailed to conduct the 15-6 Line of Duty investigation into her death.

Hers is one of 17 reports on such investigations recently obtained by Leaf-Chronicle news partner WSMV-Channel 4, Nashville, through Freedom of Information Act requests. The reports shed some much-needed light on a problem of great concern to the communities around Fort Campbell, especially since many military suicides, such as the case cited above, take place outside the post gates.

And the reports illustrate the difficulty of addressing the military suicide problem:

• Some victims were driven perfectionists and model soldiers. Some were anything but. Drugs and alcohol show up in some files and not at all in others. The same goes for financial problems.

• Some had not a hint of relationship issues, or criminal conduct or even minor misconduct, while others rode the razor’s edge of trouble all the way down the chute to oblivion.

• Some gave signs or cried out for help, but many did not, and in too many cases, victims were so good at hiding their problems and their pain that their deaths took those closest to them completely by surprise.

Perhaps surprisingly, none of the soldiers who committed suicide had a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.

About the reports
Fifteen of the 17 reports available involved units of the 101st Airborne, which covers most of the nearly 30,000 soldiers at the post. Two cases occurred within the much-smaller 5th Special Forces Group. The available reports do not include soldiers who committed suicide while deployed.

Two cases involved women soldiers. The rest were men. That breakdown is close to the actual gender composition of the Army (15.7 percent women).

The reports – spanning a period from Jan. 10, 2011, to Oct. 24, 2012 – are from AR 15-6 investigations, written by Army officers assigned to determine whether a death, disease or injury occurred “in the line of duty” and not as a result of misconduct. That line-of-duty determination has a direct bearing on whether next of kin are eligible for death benefits.

An incomplete answerOne explanation for military suicides has been cited so often that it’s nearly carved in stone: The military is damaged by a dozen years of war, resulting in an epidemic of traumatic brain injuries and PTSD, causing increasing numbers of service members to commit suicide.

The explanation is partly true.

PTSD and TBI are real and massive problems in their own right, with consequences that behavioral health professionals say will be felt by society for a generation after the wars are done.

But according to military-wide figures, slightly more than half (53 percent) of all service members who commit suicide had never deployed.

Of those who had, many were never in combat zones. And of those in combat zones, many didn’t engage in direct combat with the enemy.

According to the Department of Defense Suicide Event Report for 2011, 85 percent of military suicides never experienced direct combat.

Army guidelines no longer stipulate combat service as required for a PTSD diagnosis. But even with that expanded guideline, a majority of military suicides have no corresponding diagnosis of PTSD or TBI to point to as a factor.

And while suicide rates have risen among service members who have deployed, they have also risen among those who have not.

Those who work in suicide prevention or behavioral health say they would love to find a common thread, leading to a “Eureka!” solution. With no common thread, that may not be possible.

By the numbers
One thing that is sure regarding military suicide is that it’s worse today than it was a decade ago, when the military could boast of a low rate compared to the civilian world.

In 2002, the military suicide rate was 10.3 in 100,000. Today, it is nearly equal to the civilian rate, adjusted for comparison to the military’s higher percentage of young white males, at 18 in 100,000. The overall unadjusted numbers nationally are 12 in 100,000.

The spike in military suicides hit a peak in 2012 with 350 – or nearly one a day – combining active-duty, reserve and National Guard figures. The figure exceeded the 295 combat deaths for 2012, causing a public outcry.

In conjunction with a similar trend in suicides of veterans – 22 a day according to the VA’s most recent report –national attention on the issue of suicide has tilted firmly in the direction of the military, almost exclusively.

A statistic that shouldn’t get lost in the focus on military suicides: Civilian suicides nationally are on the rise, especially among Baby Boomer males.

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Read more on unqulified military applicants and attempts to recruit them:


524 SUICIDES IN 2012: More Accurate Number of Military Suicides Last Year Revealed by LA Times Investigation

A More Complete Tally of U.S. Military Suicides Last Year: 524

DoD Refuses to Release Number of Military Suicides by its Service Members not on Active Duty; Claims Data Unknown, Not Tracked

by Alan Zarembo
Los Angeles Times, June 17, 2013

In data compiled by the Defense Department on military suicides, perhaps the most surprising statistic is that between 2008 and 2011, 52% of service members who took their own lives had never been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq.

That figure, which challenges the popular belief that exposure to war is the primary driver of a surge in suicides, became the basis for an L.A. Times story Sunday.

But another statistic in the story also deserves attention: 524.

That is the number of suicides in the military last year.

To those who have followed the issue, it may seem like a misprint. The Pentagon recently announced that the 2012 total was 349.

The Defense Department, however, has only tracked suicides of military personnel who were on active duty when they died.

View LA Times Photo Gallery on Military Suicide:


For a more complete tally, The Times went directly to the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines for the data.

That added three suicides to the Defense Department’s figure, bringing the active-duty count for 2012 to 352.

More significantly, it added 172 suicides of reservists and National Guard members who were on inactive status at the time of their deaths.

Little is known about the suicides of service members not on active duty.

Military researchers say they are compiling and analyzing the demographics of the victims, their deployment histories and other characteristics.

The Defense Department has yet to publish their suicide rate.

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