In a recent New York Times article highlighted the failure of our government to adequately attend to the medical problems of our soldiers who suffered war injuries, physical and mental. This has resulted in thousands of suicides among the returning soldiers.
The Times reported that the Department of Veterans Affairs informed the parents of William Hamilton, an Iraq war veteran, that it was not responsible for his death.
Mr. Hamilton had been admitted nine times to a V.A. psychiatric ward in Palo Alto. He saw demon women and talked to a man he had killed in Iraq. His parents allege that the V.A. illegally turned away Mr. Hamilton — three days before he stepped in front of a train on May 16, 2010, at the age of 26.
The agency denied the wrongful-death claim in a one-page letter: "The VA did not breach a legal duty," wrote Suzanne C. Will, the agency’s regional counsel in San Francisco. Mr. Hamilton’s death was recorded in an obscure government database called the Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem death file, which contains records for all veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the high rate of suicides and risky, sometimes-fatal behaviors.
Records from that database, provided to The Bay Citizen under the Freedom of Information Act, show that the V.A. is aware of 4,194 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who died after leaving the military. More than half died within two years of discharge.
Nearly 1,200 were receiving disability compensation for a mental health condition, the most common of which was post-traumatic stress disorder.
The News Tribune of Tacoma, Wash., reports that “With veterans now accounting for one of every five suicides in the nation, the Department of Veterans Affairs is under pressure from both the courts and Congress to fix its mental-health services in an attempt to curb the death toll. ‘The suicide rate is out of control — it’s epidemic proportions right now,’ said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. ‘There are very few programs that are effective, and there’s a serious lack of national awareness.’ While the government keeps no official tally of veteran suicides, the VA last year said that veterans account for roughly 20 percent of the estimated 30,000 suicides annually in the United States.”
Every American civilian and soldier should be appalled that so many of those who served in our current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan apparently have been so ill treated that, according to the Times. Additionally, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco cited the V.A. for ‘unchecked incompetence’ and ordered an overhaul of how it provided health care and disability benefits.