Speed Reads

va scandal

VA continues to mishandle veteran suicides

In 2007, an investigation by CBS revealed a veteran suicide epidemic: Veterans were twice as likely as non-veterans to commit suicide, and in 2005 alone, at least 6,256 veterans took their own lives. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disputed the claims, arguing that fewer than 1,000 veterans committed suicide annually — yet internal emails from Dr. Ira Katz, a top VA mental health official, revealed the agency's response was knowingly deceptive.

Now, with Katz's continued involvement, it appears the VA is fudging the numbers about veteran suicides once again. While Katz says the VA is making progress on preventing veteran suicides, the VA's own numbers show veteran suicides have increased since 2007. The VA now puts the suicide rate at 18 to 22 veterans each day, but watchdog organizations suggest it could be more than 50 percent higher, at around 30 or 35 deaths daily.

Numerous investigations show that VA hospitals are frequently understaffed and/or mismanaged, and nearly two-thirds of veterans who visit the VA for PTSD or brain injury care say they feel "no improvement" or were "feeling worse" after treatment.

Active duty military are similarly at risk for suicide. In 2012, soldiers were more likely to die by their own hand than in combat.