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One Thousand Suicides a Month

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This is not the way to support the troops

Usually, as you know, I start out the Vets’ News column with information about upcoming local events, stand-downs, volunteer work days, etc, but I’ll save that for last this month because of some disturbing information that’s come to light out of the VA last week. It’s a damn shame it took a lawsuit to uncover the documents.

The Veterans Administration apparently undertook a study to determine why upwards of 1,000 veterans a month receiving care at VA hospitals are attempting suicide. (There are more veterans committing suicide than are dying in combat!)

The study was meant to be secret and would never have come to light if not for a lawsuit filed by Veterans for Common Sense on behalf of the 1.7 million Americans who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and who allege the VA has systematically denied mental health care to veterans returning stateside. One VA document reveals top VA brass, alarmed by what they called “compensation-seeking veterans,” suggested denying  vets’ valid PTSD claims and instead diagnose them as non-compensable and non-treatable “adjustment disorders,” thus ruling out PTSD.

Meanwhile, in only the six months leading up to March 31, a total of 1,467 veterans died while waiting to learn if their disability claim would be okayed by the VA. The lawsuit documents further revealed that, contrary to earlier rosy estimates by the administration, vets who decide to appeal a VA decision must wait an average of four and a half years for their appeal to be heard.

Aaron Glatz, author of the forthcoming book “The War Comes Home,” has stated “Bush and the Congress have the power to stop this problem before it gets worse. It’s not too late to extend needed mental health Care to our returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans; it’s not too late to begin properly screening and treating servicemen who’ve suffered traumatic brain injury and it’s surely not too late to simplify the VA disability process so that wounded veterans do not have to die waiting for their first check.” With many troops now on their third or fourth combat tour and with the universally despised “stop-loss” policies still in effect the problem will only get worse, not better. Something needs to be done now!

Don’t even get me started on Democratic Senator James Webb of Virginia, a Marine combat veteran and his futile attempts to expand the current GI Bill to a level commiserate to what WWII vets received. He’s been blasted by Republicans for electioneering and his bill has been savaged by none other than John McCain, supposedly the “Veteran’s Friend.”

And, as I promised, in local veterans’ news, a Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter #890 volunteer wood-cutting party has been set for Saturday, May 31 at 9  am to help needy families make it through the coming winter. Please meet at the Essex Road work site.

The DAV Benefit Yard Sale has been re-scheduled for the first weekend in June at 619 Railroad Ave. in Dover. Call 265-9881 for information.

The Marine Corps League will be serving coffee and donuts again at the visitor center south of Sandpoint on Memorial Day weekend so be sure and stop by and say hi to Jay and the guys. To volunteer at the coming Saturday, July 12 stand-down please get a hold of Russ Fankell at 208-263-5419.

The local DAV Van is still in need of volunteer drivers so if you can help out just one day a month and are in good health and have a clean driving record please stop by the Veterans Service Office on McGhee Road in Ponderay and pick up an application form.

By the time you read this the Memorial Day Forget-Me-Not Drive will be over so I’d like to thank again all of our wonderful Disabled Veteran helpers this year: Trish Gannon of TRJ, Jonny Knight of KPND, , Derik Walker of K-102, Rick Wilfert, Mayors Hellar of Sandpoint and Keith of Hope and Dave Broughton of Blue Sky Broadcasting. More Sugar to You All!

‘til next time, smoke ‘em if ya’ got ‘em and All Homage to Xena!

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Jody Forest Jody Forest When he's not hidden behind the palatial gates of his Dover estate, Casa de Bozo, Jody is out using outdated and corny pickup lines on various gullible women.

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