The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

VA’s Prescription for War-injuries:
Ignore Them

May 19, 2008

Five years after George Bush declared “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq, papers have been filled with stories saying the situation in Iraq is improving.

Not true–not for the Iraqi population, not for American soldiers in Iraq and not for soldiers returning to the U.S. and their families.

Nearly 20% of returning veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depression. Another 20% have possible traumatic brain injuries. That adds up to 600,000 vets with severe disabilities. These figures were reported in a recent study by the Rand Corporation.

The physical and mental trauma of these wars explain why the number of veterans of the two wars committing suicide far exceeds the number dying in combat.

And veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are not the only casualties of these wars either. The rate of suicide among Vietnam vets spiked upwards again as news coverage of the current wars brings back traumatic experiences from their war years.

What has been the military’s response to the growing number of vets under severe stress? A complete and total cover-up!

For example, last year Dr. Ira Katz, the head of the VA’s Mental Health Division, testified in a Congressional hearing that there had been fewer than 800 suicide attempts in all of 2007, denying there was a suicide epidemic.

But an e-mail Katz himself had sent to a VA colleague gave a different story: “Shh! Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among veterans we see in our medical facilities. Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?” That’s 12,000 suicide attempts in a single year, and that’s only among veterans receiving treatment from the VA–not all those others who never make it to a VA treatment center. This email came to light in a class-action lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs by two veterans groups

The vets also presented an e-mail from a PTSD program coordinator at a Veterans’ Center in Texas to other psychologists, social workers and a psychiatrist that said, “Given that we are having more and more compensation seeking veterans, I’d like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out.... Consider a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder.... We really don’t have time to do extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD.”

When they’re not denying the entire scope of the veterans’ mental health problems, the VA simply delays paying the vets disability benefits. During the trial, lawyers for the veterans’ groups showed that in the prior six months almost 1500 vets died waiting for their disability claims to be decided and that veterans who appeal denials of their claims wait nearly four and half years on average to get an answer.

No matter what military recruitment ads and all the politicians pretend, this is the harsh reality: the troops are just so much cannon fodder, to be used up and thrown away.