Current Mental-Health Resources Fail Our Heroes - Commentary from Roll Call

03/10/2014

Each day, nearly 22 former servicemen and servicewomen commit suicide.

In January, the Department of Veterans Affairs reported that suicide rates for younger veterans, ages 18 to 29, had increased significantly from 2009 to 2011. The suicide rate for male veterans increased by 44 percent, while the rate among female veterans increased by 11 percent.

Despite these alarming statistics, the VA found “no clear change” in the suicide rate of veterans using their own facilities.

What is clear: When it comes to treating the invisible wounds of war, our veterans are being ignored.

Shocking failures by the VA, including the inaccurate reports of veteran suicides, have recently come to light in mainstream media and in public hearings. At least 19 veteran deaths have been caused by delayed diagnoses and treatment at VA hospitals and clinics, a common occurrence due to the falsification of patient wait times and other unethical acts, according to recent findings reported by the Washington Examiner.

In 2007 during his presidential campaign, Barack Obama said, “When we fail to keep faith with our veterans, the bond between our nation and our nation’s heroes becomes frayed. When a veteran is denied care, we are all dishonored.”

This dishonor is widespread, and it worsened on Feb. 27 when the Senate rejected a veterans bill that would expand the benefits of former servicemembers.

The Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act (S 1982) was introduced by Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Unfortunately, it needed four more votes to advance. Cost was a major factor in its failure to pass, as well as a concern that the bill would increase the wait times at VA facilities.

Click here to read more of Art Terrazas' commentary in Roll Call.