Friday, June 08, 2012

Service member suicides

The Pentagon doesn't like to use the term "crisis," especially when discussing the suicide rate of service members.  But the situation reached crisis level long ago.  The latest news is even worse than before. Mark Thompson (Time magazine) explains:

New Pentagon data show U.S. troops are killing themselves at the rate of nearly one a day so far in 2012, 18% above 2011′s corresponding toll. "The continual rise in the suicide rate has frustrated all in the military," says Elspeth "Cam" Ritchie, a retired Army colonel and chief psychiatric adviser to the Army surgeon general. "The rise in the suicide rate continues despite numerous recommendations from the Army and DoD task forces."

Yesterday on the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, David Martin filed a report (link is text and video):

David Martin: Spc Carl McCoy survived two tours in Iraq only to take his own life and shatter the life of his wife Maggie.

Maggie McCoy:  He shot himself.  In the bathroom.

David Martin: Here in this house?

Maggie McCoy: Yes.

David Martin: That was 2008, when the Army did not have enough mental health counselors.  McCoy had scheduled an appointment with a counselor at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.  But that morning --

Maggie McCoy: They called and cancelled. 

David Martin: And they cancelled because?

Maggie McCoy: They didn't have anybody to see see him.  That was the day before he killed himself. 

Martin goes on to float the Pentagon's 'possible' reason for the increase:  The economy.

So now the Pentagon and the White House are at war over talking points?  Martin didn't note that.  The White House is saying the recession is over.  Until last month's jobs report (the month of May), the news media and the White House were insisting the recession was over, the economy was recovering and slowly but surely rebuilding.

That was a lie.

But so is the Pentagon's claim.  These are numbers beginning in January, the 154 service members who have taken their own lives.  Were they economists who saw through the spin as early as February?  Did 150 of them die since the jobs report was released?  No, this is data through June 3rd.  And note this is incomplete data.  The numbers will not go down but they may go up.   There are several deaths still under investigation.  If they are classified as suicides then even more than 154 will have taken their own lives in this time period.

I have no idea why Martin didn't question that nonsense because it's one of those things that requires no hard numbers to challenge.  If the Pentagon says, "The economy is the reason our service members are taking their own lives," the response is, "That would apply to veterans, possibly, but aren't service members secure in the belief that they will receive a pay check for the agreed upon wages?"

A follow up question would have been: "Were these suicides people who are being cut from the military?  Is scaling back the military creating additional stress for those serving?"

Those are questions that should have been asked.

Instead, Martin lets the Pentagon have the last word and pretends like what they've stated makes sense.  It should have been questioned.

If Katie Couric had been in the anchor chair, it most likely would have been questioned.  But that's the sort of thing she got slammed for: talking.  Not enough news flying by!  The critics didn't like her doing sit-downs and trying to examine the news.  Now they instead have Scott Pelley and his two faces -- happy "Thank you!" and inside of eye brows go up above the nose, lower lip juts out just a little and he's so concerned.  Emote, Scott, emote.

 Robert Burns (AP) notes,  "The numbers reflect a military burdened with wartime demands from Iraq and Afghanistan that have taken a greater toll than foreseen a decade ago. The military also is struggling with increased sexual assaults, alcohol abuse, domestic violence and other misbehaviour."  David Martin was oblivious to that apparently.

The following community sites -- plus, CSPAN, Ms. magazine, Pacifica Evening News and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- updated last night and this morning:

Two things "The Pacifica Evening News" item is not 14 minutes ago.  I saw it last night and saved it for inclusion this morning.  Second, we have covered Wednesday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in the Wednesday snapshot and the Thursday snapshot.   We'll cover it again today.  There are two groups of visitors e-mailing that I "need" to do something.  One group says I "need" to link to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee page of that hearing so people can stream it.  I "need" to do that?  No, I don't.

With the exception of the Appropriations Committees, all the House and Senate Committees we regularly cover are on the permalinks.  You can scoll through and find it.  Or you can Google it.  The plan was to brush up one section of yesterday's snapshot -- where a joke I made got included and my friend said, "No, no, leave it in! We'll come back to it at the end." and he knew I'd forget by the time I was done dictating the snapshot.  And I did until he said "it's sent" (e-mailed to the site).  At which point I said, "Did you pull that joke?" He didn't.  That's fine.  But that was not something I would have written into the snapshot if I typed it.  I have a limited amount of time.  I cannot spoon feed you or breast feed you.  You should be mature enough to see that your needs are met on your own.  (If not, Abraham Maslow's work might need to be rethought.)

The second group had managed to find the Senate Foreign Relations Committee website but were upset that when they got there they found no hearing. 

What are they talking about?  This:


If you're among the visitors who found that page, good for you.  If you're e-mailing the public account of this site to share your frustration, great.  I hear you, everyone who reads the public account will understand your frustration, the hearing should be posted, the video of it.

If you're e-mailing wondering if there is video, there should be.  There was a man operating the video camera. 

Why isn't it up?

I don't know.    But if you want to know why it's not up or to complain about it not being up, the best thing to do would be go to this page where it lists the contact information for the Committee:

Majority Phone: (202) 224-4651
Majority Fax: (202) 228-3612
Minority Phone: (202) 224-6797

Whether they post it or not, the plan is to cover Sahwa in today's snapshot -- from the hearing, McGurk's remarks on Sahwa. 

Another Senate Committee is the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Senator Patty Murray is the Committee Chair and we'll note this from her office.

Thursday, June 7, 2012
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
 (202) 224-2834
VETERANS: Murray Commends VA for Focus on Reproductive Injuries 
Murray: VA must continue to work to enhance fertility treatment services for severely wounded veterans 
(Washington, D.C.) – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee sent a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki to commend the Department's addition of coverage for reproductive and urinary tract injuries to the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection Program. The nature of the current conflict and increasing use of improvised explosive devices leaves servicemembers far more susceptible to blast injuries that affect these systems. Army data shows that between 2003 and 2011 more than 600 servicemembers from OEF/OIF/OND suffered these life-changing battle injuries. 
"It is vital our veterans and their families receive benefits and services that allow them to fulfill their life goals, such as attending college or having a child," said Senator Murray. "I look forward to working with VA to make sure veterans get the support they need." 
The full text of the letter follows: 
June 6, 2012 
Honorable Eric K. Shinseki 
Secretary of Veterans Affairs 
810 Vermont Avenue, NW 
Washington, DC 20420 
Dear Secretary Shinseki: 
I write to commend the Department's recent focus on reproductive and urinary tract injuries in the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection Program. The nature of the current conflict and increasing use of improvised explosive devices leaves servicemembers far more susceptible to blast injuries that cause this type of trauma. This is an area that has been of increasing concern to me as these injured servicemembers attempt to move forward with their lives. 
Recent Army data shows that between 2003 and 2011 more than 600 servicemembers from the current conflicts suffered reproductive and urinary tract battle injuries. As these servicemembers readjust to civilian life and eventually get ready to start their own family, they find VA's fertility services do not meet their complex needs. While VA's fertility services provide limited assistance to the veteran with reproductive and urinary tract trauma, there is no coverage for their spouse. 
I know that you share my belief that it is critical that veterans and their families receive benefits and services that allow them to fulfill as many of their goals as practicable, whether they include attending college or having a child. 
I look forward to our continued work is this area to support our Nation's veterans and their families.
Kathryn Robertson
Press Assistant
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
448 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510

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