Friday, August 12, 2011

Veterans suicides prompts speak out at Coffee Strong

Joe Fryer (KING5) reports on March Forward's press conference this week where the addressed the issue of military suicides and noted that Sgt Derrick Kirkland repeatedly attempted to take his own life yet was labeled "low risk" by the military. Michael Prysner is quoted stating, "Within 48 hours of being in the care of Fort Lewis, he was dead. The mental health care system is broken. Soldiers are sent on constant, repeated deployments. When they ask for help, they receive notoriously inadequate care."

Tonight at Coffee Strong -- the GI coffeehouse -- a speak-out is planned and will start at 7:30 p.m. Among those telling truths will be Mary Kirkland, mother of the late Sgt Derrick Kirkland. Jeremiah Kirkland is a member of March Forward and, like his brother Derrick, he served in the Army. He spoke about his brother's suicide in an interview with March Forward. Excerpt:

MF: What was he like when you talked to him after he was sent home?

Jeremiah Kirkland: He was just totally depressed. It all got to him.

MF: Did he express his frustration with the treatment he was getting?

JK: Yeah, he said all they did was load him up with drugs.

MF: What was your reaction when you heard that he had killed himself?

JK: In all honestly, I was not surprised. I mean, Army mental health care is a joke. You pretty much go there, don’t even tell them anything, and they determine whatever category you’re in based on different factors and that’s the treatment you get. My brother got substandard treatment. The consistently dropped the ball.

MF: Who do you think is responsible for your brother’s death?

JK: This government! If he hadn’t been deployed, for no goddamn reason but corporate greed, he would still be here.

MF: What do you think about Derrick being rated a “low risk” for suicide by the Army?

JK: Not surprised, honestly. It’s just, you know, pretty much whatever they can do to save the government dollar on giving our soldiers actual health care. It just doesn’t work.

Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and her office issued the following yesterday:
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin sent a joint letter to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki expressing their concern about the placement of homeless female veterans in unsecure housing in Chicago, which jeopardized their safety. Chairman Murray and Senator Durbin's letter asks VA for assurances that homeless female veterans across the country who are being cared for by the Department are housed in appropriate, safe and secure conditions.

The full text of the Senators' letter is below:

The Honorable Eric Shinseki


Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20420

Secretary Shinseki:
We are writing to express our strong concerns regarding the privacy, safety, and security of homeless female veterans who participate in the grant and per diem (GPD) program. As you know, women veterans are more likely than their male counterparts to become homeless, and VA must be prepared to serve the unique needs of this growing population.
We were recently informed that several homeless female veterans were placed with a provider in Chicago, Illinois, which was only approved to house male veterans. As you know, sexual trauma and domestic violence are prevalent in the homeless women veteran population. Furthermore, placing these women into a mixed-gender environment often exacerbates their trauma. While we understand VA has taken immediate action to remove the women veterans from this facility and to immediately stop per diem payments to this provider, the failure to mitigate the privacy, safety and security risks for these female veterans is simply unacceptable.
Although this appears to be an isolated incident, the problems raised in Chicago do call into question the Department's ability to exercise effective oversight over its GPD grantees and to provide the type of care that homeless female veterans truly need and deserve. In order to ensure that a situation like this never occurs again, we request that you provide us with the results of an inventory of active GPD grantees to certify that there are no ongoing inappropriate placements of homeless female veterans at other facilities or housing situations. Please also provide a description of the measures VA is taking to ensure that homeless female veterans are not housed in inappropriate housing situations in the future, including a description of the grantee inspection process. We expect a detailed briefing to our staffs on these matters as soon as possible.
Secretary Shinseki, we appreciate your commitment to ensuring the highest quality care for homeless veterans. We are grateful for the leadership you have displayed in fighting to end veteran homelessness once and for all and look forward to continuing to work with you to achieve this mutual goal.


U.S. Senator Patty Murray

Chairman Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee

U.S. Senator Richard Durbin

Senate Majority Whip


Meghan Roh

Deputy Press Secretary

Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray



Get Updates from Senator Murray

Meanwhile Corbin Hiar (iWatch News) reports Senator Charles Grassley is calling for an audit of the VA's travel funds as a result "of $80 million spent on travel last year by the Department of Veterans Affaris after a senior official billed the government nearly $131,000 for his weekly commute to Washington, D.C."

With that and so much more going on -- including multiple wars -- it's really pathetic that The Nation magazine has done a 'sports' issue. If hairy back thinks he's proven sports is not a distraction with that awful issue, he fails to grasp that the issue is an indictment of the left and of exactly how out of touch the magazine is with America. If you're a political magazine, try being political. The Nation can't hit hard on the wars -- wouldn't want to hurt their beloved Barry -- so they put together a junk issue that is not elevated by the fact that they include contributions by Noam Chomsky and Jane Mayer among others. All that does is remind that for years talented writers wasted their craft and any talent doing similar crap for Playboy magazine. Next up, The Nation Goes To The Beach! With a shocking pictorial featuring Eric Alterman and Betsy Reed in a 'sexy' photo shoot while John Nichols contributes a hard hitting piece on how to get sand out of your swimsuit and personal crevices and Katrina vanden Heuvel explores the dilemma of to wax or not to wax in a lengthy essay entitled "Women of Eastern Europe Vs The French Cut Bikini: Who Really Wins In This Culture War?"

The following community sites -- plus Adam vs The Man, and Watching America -- updated last night and this morning:

Iraq Veterans Against the Wars notes:

In Washington D.C. on October 7th, we will be marking this commemoration of the Global War on Terror with a unique forum, War Voices, which will bring together people directly impacted by U.S. militarism and the U.S. war economy with ally groups, as well as writers, musicians, and artists. Through story-telling, workshops, discussions, and cultural performances, we will build our power as a movement by meeting one another, building relationships that will inspire us for the long haul, envisioning new directions for the future, and planting the seeds for structures of mutual support and solidarity that will allow us to create a demilitarized world. We will be providing a live webcast of the forum in D.C. for those who are unable to join us for the event. At the forum, we also hope to premiere new digital media featuring Afghan organizations talking about their work.

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