Tonight President Barack Obama will deliver his annual State Of The Union speech. During that speech he will undoubtedly praise the members of our armed forces who are serving all over the world to protect the American way of life. He will speak of the courage and sacrifice these patriots show by putting their lives on hold and at risk in order to serve their country. Sadly more and more American heroes won't hear tonights speech. These heroes are not with us anymore, they are casualties of the wars they fought in even though they made it home alive. For the second strait year the United States Military has lost more troops to suicide than to combat. This alarming report continues over the jump.
Overall, the services reported 434 suicides by personnel on active duty, significantly more than the 381 suicides by active-duty personnel reported in 2009. The 2010 total is below the 462 deaths in combat, excluding accidents and illness. In 2009, active-duty suicides exceeded deaths in battle.
The numbers of reported suicides by members of our military are as high as they've ever been and might actually be higher if our metrics of measurements were better. This paragraph is most alarming to me: (bold by diarist)
Suicides by veterans who have left the service entirely after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan also are not counted by the Defense Department. The Department of Veterans Affairs keeps track of such suicides only if the person was enrolled in the VA health care system — which three-quarters of veterans are not.
Three-quarters of veterans are not enrolled in the VA?!? That, to me, is a huge problem, unfortunately there is not an explanation as to why that is. Is it due to lack of access? Lack of funding for the VA? I'm not sure but I hope this problem gets addressed by our political leaders, and soon. The Obama administration did increase funding for the VA by 15%, which was applauded by some, but seems far too little for the problems our veterans face.
While veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have free health care for five years, veterans from other wars and those whose time has expired must fill out a 23-page claim form to be eligible for care. To make matters worse, Mr. Sullivan said, VBA employees are sparsely located – there is only one VBA office in Virginia and one in Maryland, for example. And the backlog is astonishing: About half a million veterans are waiting on average six months for an answer to a new disability claim, while an additional 200,000 are waiting for an answer on an appealed claim, according to Mr. Sullivan.
The Defense Department is trying to help those families affected by suicide trough the Tragedy Assistance Program fro Survivors (TAPS) which brings together those families who have suffered through the loss of a loved one.
Families are often the first witness of a soldier in crisis, according to Bonnie Carroll, the executive director of TAPS. She says that while military families need to know the signs of suicidal behavior, the military also needs to do more to encourage soldiers to get mental health treatment — just as a coach encourages an athlete to see a trainer.
This SOTU we will all be listening and parsing every word about everything to see if President Obama is going to touch SS or reach out to republicans or punch a hippie meanwhile a veteran is out there contemplating his or her worth in the world. A veteran, who put his or her life on the line for our freedoms and security, is alone and needs our help. To donate to veterans visit one of these sites:
If you have other organizations that help Veterans, please put them in the comments and I'll list them.