Here's a little more info:U.S. Senator John Walsh, one of two combat veterans in the U.S. Senate, will join Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), representatives from veteran service organizations and guests at the National Day of Action to Combat Suicide. Walsh will announce an historic piece of legislation that will address the most pressing issues related to the veteran suicide crisis.
Thursday morning, volunteers will place 1,892 American Flags on the Mall representing the number of veterans estimated to have died by suicide to date in 2014. The event will conclude with a program at 11am featuring IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff, Senator Walsh and Kim Ruocco, Director of Suicide Postvention Programs at TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors).
The National Day of Action is the culmination of IAVA's 10th Annual "Storm the Hill" week of advocacy during which 32 member vets from across the country have held over 130 meetings with Members of Congress, senior officials at the Pentagon and at the White House. Each "Stormer" has a personal story that illustrates why suicide prevention is the number one issue for post-9/11 veterans. - Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans Of America, 3/26/14
I'm very happy Walsh is leading on this because it's a crisis that needs attention now more than ever:Walsh, a former Montana National Guard adjutant general, said undiagnosed combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries play major roles in the crisis. In some cases, it may take months for symptoms to emerge. By that time, veterans are often disconnected from their combat units and military personnel who might otherwise recognize symptoms.
In some cases, veterans struggling with PTSD or a combat-related brain injury end up receiving a wrongful discharge, meaning from the military’s point of view they suffer from a personality disorder. With that type of discharge, veterans lose their benefits, including care for combat-related mental health issues.
Walsh is proposing a seven-point plan for addressing the suicide crisis, beginning with a review of wrongful discharges, which may number more than 31,000 since the beginning of the Afghan War.
The senator also wants to extend eligibility for combat-related injuries like PTSD. Currently, special combat eligibility expires at five years, but the worst PTSD symptoms may not show up until later. Walsh wants the eligibility period extended to 15 years.
Veteran Affairs has struggled to keep enough mental health professionals on staff to handle health issues contributing to suicide. Walsh is suggesting the government repay the medical school loans of psychiatrists who commit to long-term service with the VA. In addition, the senator’s proposal calls on the VA to adequately train mental health care workers to identify suicide warning signs. And Walsh wants an annual review of VA and Department of Defense suicide prevention programs.
The Department of Defense and VA need to be working seamlessly to prevent veterans from committing suicide, Walsh said. He’s asking that military records be digitized and that prescription drugs issued by the two departments be better coordinated. - Billings Gazette, 3/26/14
IAVA is joining forces with Walsh in calling on Congress to pass the Suicide Prevention for America's Veterans (SAV) Act. Last night, Walsh appeared on Rachel Maddow to discuss the legislation which you can watch here:It's estimated that 22 American veterans die by suicide every day. That's nearly one every hour, of every day, of every week, of every month. That's over 8,000 veterans every year.Kris Goldsmith
And that number almost included Kris Goldsmith.
Kris is an Army veteran from Long Island, NY. He deployed to Iraq in 2005, where he went on more than 300 missions. Kris left the Army in 2007 with a "general discharge" after he attempted to take his own life. Kris' "less-than-honorable" discharge status made him ineligible for the GI Bill and was unemployable for two years. But thanks to strong support and personal courage, Kris made it through. And not only is he surviving, he's thriving. He is tackling the process of recovery from PTSD and attending Nassau Community College -- where he's president of the student veterans group. He's a survivor. And now he wants to save others.
Kris is one of 32 vets who came to Washington this week from across the country to advocate at IAVA's 10th Annual Storm the Hill. In past years, we fought for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, guaranteed funding for the VA in case of a government shutdown (which came in handy this past year), increased employment support, demanded better care for female veterans, and more.
Each year is historic. But this year, it's different. It seems more personal to everyone involved. That's because we're combating veteran suicide. We know it's not just about changing broken bureaucracies, it's about literally saving lives. - Paul Rieckoff, Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Huffington Post, 3/26/14
I applaud Walsh for both his service and his call to action. It's important we keep him in the Senate so he can continue to be a strong voice for veterans. But of course Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers are trying to get rid of Walsh and help their buddy, Rep. Steve Daines (R. MT) become the next Senator from Montana:
If you want to get involved and donate to Walsh's campaign, you can do so here:Despite the state’s image as a Big Sky bastion of low taxes, small government and libertarian values, Montana voters have a long history of electing Democrats to the Senate. In 2012, for example, Senator Jon Tester, a buzz-cut farmer, won a second term even as Montana voters swung for Mitt Romney by a nearly 14-point margin and elected a Republican businessman, Steve Daines, to his first term as the state’s sole congressman.
Mr. Daines is now running for the Senate. A former software firm executive who also worked in China for Procter & Gamble, he is selling himself as a counterweight to Democratic policies on health care, spending and development.
Mr. Daines has nearly $2 million to spend on the race, more than four times as much as Mr. Walsh’s campaign, according to federal campaign data. Public polls have put Mr. Walsh behind Mr. Daines by double digits, a tally that the Daines campaign said was consistent with its internal polling. While the two candidates face primary challengers, both are expected to prevail.
Mr. Daines and his campaign have kept their distance from the conservative attacks on Mr. Walsh’s time in the Montana National Guard, instead airing gauzy biographical ads that highlight his business experience and family roots in Montana. Democrats have lacerated Mr. Daines for casting votes with his Republican colleagues that precipitated the government shutdown, and supporting what they call draconian budget cuts.
Supporters hoped Mr. Walsh’s appointment would raise the stature of a candidate who lacks the easy name recognition of a former governor or long-serving politician. Mr. Walsh said he would devote his attention to job growth, debt reduction, veterans and privacy issues. - New York Times, 3/22/14