Monday, April 21, 2008

 

Bush administration covered up suicide rate among veterans

CBS News Investigates

VA Hid Suicide Risk, Internal E-Mails Show
Follow-Up Reporting On Exclusive Investigation Reveals Officials Hid Numbers
April 21, 2008
(CBS/AP)

In San Francisco federal court Monday, attorneys for veterans' rights groups accused the VA of nothing less than a cover-up - deliberately concealing the real risk of suicide among veterans...

The charges were backed by internal emails written by Dr. Ira Katz, the VA's head of Mental Health.

"There is no epidemic in suicide in VA," Katz told Keteyian in November.

But in this e-mail to his top media advisor, written two months ago, Katz appears to be saying something very different, stating: "Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among veterans we see in our metical facilities."

Katz's email was written shortly after the VA provided CBS News data showing there were only 790 attempted suicides in all 2007 - a fraction of Katz's estimate.

"This 12,000 attempted suicides per year shows clearly, without a doubt, that there is an epidemic of suicide among veterans," said Paul Sullivan of Veterans for Common Sense.

And it appears that Katz went out of his way to conceal these numbers.

First, he titled his e-mail: "Not for the CBS News Interview Request."

He opened it with "Shh!" - as in keep it quiet - before ending with
"Is this something we should (carefully) address … before someone stumbles on it?"

And that's not all.

Last November when CBS Newsexposed an epidemic of more than 6,200 suicides in 2005 among those who had served in the military, Katz attacked our report.

"Their number is not, in fact, an accurate reflection of the rate," he said last November.

But it turns out they were, as Katz admitted in this e-mail, just three days later.

He wrote: there "are about 18 suicides per day among America's 25 million veterans."

That works out to about 6,570 per year, which Katz admits in the same e-mail, "is supported by the CBS numbers."


http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/04/21/cbsnews_investigates/main4032921.shtml

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