Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Veterans Affairs Committee suicide hearing ignored

Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Force -- West Soldier was killed in action against an enemy force while on patrol in Anbar Province May 6." This follows the announcement made late yesterday: "A Multi-National Division -- North soldier was killed from wounds sustained in an insurgent attack against the soldier’s patrol in Ninewah Province May 6. One soldier was also wounded in the attack and was taken to a Coalition force hospital for treatment." The announcements brings the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4073.

Yesterday's snapshot notes the House House Committee on Veterans' Affairs hearing entitled "The Truth About Veterans' Suicides." Where is it in the morning papers? Hint, this isn't a story about it in the New York Times. Lisa Mascaro covers it in "House committee targets VA on suicides" (Las Vegas Sun) and notes that Rep Shelley Berkley waived her time to allow the questioning of witnesses to begin:

"I find it absolutely appalling that anyone would try to conceal these numbers -- preventing us from addressing the root of the issue of suicide among veterans," Berkley wrote.
Berkley drew on the case of Nevada Army Army Pfc. Travis Virgadamo who killed himself while on active duty in Iraq. Virgadamo had told his family while at home on leave he was suffering mentally and had sought counseling.
"The Army’s response was to treat him with Prozac," Berkley wrote. "This incident only reinforces the fact that we need to place more emphasis on mental health of servicemembers in or returning from combat."
Check here to read Virgadamo's story. And here if you want to review testimony from the hearing.

Kimberly Hefling (AP) touches on it:

On Tuesday on Capitol Hill, Katz and VA Secretary James Peake were doing a lot of explaining -- and apologizing.
Katz told the House Veterans Affairs Committee that the e-mail was in poor tone - even though the body contained "appropriate, healthy dialogue" about the data.
"I deeply regret the subject line,” Katz said. "It was an error and I apologize for that."
The e-mail claims 12,000 veterans a year attempt suicide while under department treatment. "Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?" the e-mail asks.

A longer version by her is at the Janesville Gazette and includes:

The committee's chairman, Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., accused Katz of being more concerned about how data was interpreted than the health of veterans. He also said Katz -- as well as others involved -- should be fired. He accused the agency of criminal negligence in the handling of data about the number of veterans who have committed suicide, and of having a history of cover-ups.
"I want to know if you're really going to take your role seriously," Filner said to Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake, who started in December.

Fally Afani Ruzik, Ben Bauman and Stefanie Sloan offer "News about veterans, both bad and good" (KTKA):

Members of the House Veterans Committee blasted the Veterans Administration today on Capitol Hill, accusing the agency of covering up veterans' suicide rates.
"What we see is a pattern, Mr. Secretary. The pattern is deny, deny, deny."
Leaders at the VA defended themselves, saying they didn't release the number of veterans attempting suicide because of concerns over its accuracy. Some figures show a rate as high as 1,000 suicide attempts per month.

CNN's Lisa Desjardins offers "VA blasted over veterans suicides:"

"This is a matter of life and death," said Chairman Bob Filner, D-California, "and I think there was criminal negligence in the way this was handled."
In a follow-up hearing on the veteran suicide issue, Filner insisted the VA either ignored critical suicide data or covered up the numbers.
"The pattern is deny, deny, deny," Filner told Veterans Secretary Jim Peake, "then when facts seemingly come to disagree with the denial, you cover up, cover up, cover up."
The committee was reacting to a December hearing in which Ira Katz, the VA's chief for mental health, insisted suicide data reported in the media had been exaggerated.
Three days after his testimony, Filner said, the agency indicated some alarming statistics could, in fact, be correct.

CBS News offers "Tempers Flare At Hearing On Vet Suicides:"

Outside the hearing room we asked Peake to answer repeated calls from Congress for Katz's resignation.
"I do not have any intention of relieving Dr. Katz," Peake said.
"So Dr. Katz stays?" asked Keteyian.
"That's my plan, absolutely," Peake answered.
Peake said the plan now is to sweep aside any talk of a cover-up and tell Congress and the American public the truth about veteran suicides.
CBS News first reported on the epidemic of suicide in the V.A. in November 2007, finding that more than 6,000 veterans killed themselves in 2005 alone. That averages out to more than 120 per week. Katz immediately dismissed our report at a December 12th committee hearing, saying CBS’s numbers were not "an accurate reflection of the rates."

The Nation had no time to cover the hearing -- not anywhere on their multitude of blogs -- but they offer their non-stop crap on elections. Most notably with Tom-Tom Hayden who declares that Hillary "is in denial" and offers that she " needed two wins. She failed utterly. But she will not stop, not on her own." No, she didn't. She's not the media annointed god. Nor do the super delegates need to "intervene tomorrow." But that kind of self-serving nonsense (Tom-Tom's trying to make himself a king maker) is to be expected from the man who destroyed his meal ticket marriage not via many extramarital affairs but by polling. Polling? He lost his wife when she discovered he was polling -- while in the California state legislature -- to find out if she was a "drag" on him in a Senate run? The point was moot without her because, without her, he was just another deadbeat beggar. Just another deadbeat beggar that so many had donated to because of his then-wife. Without her? He couldn't even get elected to mayor.

But never forget that he was happy to take her money (during the marriage -- during the divorce as well but we're focused on the marriage), so much so that he would run the most expensive state legislature race (and barely win) in the country but, even while doing that, even while using the money she made (he never made money, deadbeat), even while shacked up with VR of the Dukakis campaign (on his then-wife's money), he was polling to see if he needed to ditch her to run for the US Congress. Translation, Tom Hayden was born trash and will die trash. Dumb trash at that because most lazy beggars lucky enough to land a meal ticket just sponge off, they don't show ingratitude. [But that's all he could offer, that and attacks on Vanessa and insults to his wife about how other women (ones he couldn't get, to be clear) -- such as Jessica Lange -- had better bodies. He had a very high opinion of himself for a man with a broken nose, a pock marked face and no gainful employment.]

If you haven't noticed, I'm really sick of a lot of LIARS and, Sunday (at Third), we may begin to explore The Nation and the Sherry Netherlands meeting: their friend "Otto" and their past. It's a little told story but was a focus for members of Congress. The magazine got very lucky that the Speaker of the House died. He was no friend of Otto's and no friend of the trash-fest that was The Nation magazine. (Most would argue, the trash-fest that still is The Nation.) And in his own minor (naturally) way, the lead instigator of Days of Rage really isn't that different from Otto; granted Tom-Tom's only used two names and Otto used many, many more but Otto lived on a 'grander' scale -- died on one too -- even if The Nation didn't lament his passing or act like they knew him at the time of his death. (He died in shame, executed.)

As noted in yesterday's "HUBdate," George Frost takes on the gas tax holiday issue in "Obama is wrong about the gas tax" (Salon):

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has repeatedly accused rival Hillary Clinton of "pandering" for advocating a summer gas-tax moratorium, calling it a "classic Washington gimmick" that would do little to help consumers.
"That's typical of how Washington works," Obama says in a new TV ad airing in Indiana, where primary voters go to the polls Tuesday. "There's a problem. Everybody's upset about gas prices. Let's find some short-term quick fix that we can say we did something even though ... we're not really doing anything."
Obama dismisses Clinton's proposal to suspend the 18.4 cent per gallon federal gas tax as: 1) a political gimmick that will not deliver any significant relief to consumers, while diverting us from the serious energy reforms we need to undertake; 2) an opportunity for oil companies to raise prices to capture the missing tax increment; 3) an inducement to drivers to drive more, thus leading to more consumption and higher prices down the road; and 4) a drain on highway trust funding, which is sorely needed to repair our crumbling infrastructure.
This is powerful criticism because it resonates with a long-standing talking point against Clinton -- that she is a political phony willing to do anything to get elected.
But in this case, each of Obama's attack lines is either factually incorrect, or based on flawed logic. Could he be attacking Clinton just to deny her any political benefit? That would be as cynical and "old style" as anything Clinton has thrown at Obama lately.
American drivers are hurting, especially those who must drive a lot -- commuters, truckers, carpool moms. Millions of lower-income rural and exurban Americans must drive long distances to their jobs, meaning high gas prices take a disproportionately large chunk out of their incomes. Some are having to choose between gasoline and food. A savings of $30 or $50 is a significant amount of cash for at least some Americans.
Despite the "gimmick" slam on Clinton, could it be that Clinton is sincerely trying to help, albeit in a very modest, and politically self-serving way? The evidence suggests that Clinton's plan might work. It also raises the question of why Obama hasn't made a similar proposal. He was certainly proud to back a gas-tax moratorium eight years ago.

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