Hidden Casualties of War

Last week, I shared a tragic story of a veteran who committed suicide less than three hours after being assessed as a "low risk" patient, and was released from VA care. The carelessness of his assessment was largely due to a standardized questionnaire that was used to identify high risk patients. This is a serious oversight, especially when you consider the statistic that by the end of the day, 18 veterans will have taken their own lives.

Since these troops make it home from Iraq, Afghanistan or other battlefields alive, they are not counted as casualties of war. In 2007, 6,256 veterans committed suicide. That's about two thousand more than the number of troops who died in Iraq since the beginning of the war. And yet, these deaths are not counted among the war casualties.

But what else can you blame for these suicides? Concerns over the rising rate of PTSD among veterans have been escalating. An even more telling statistic of this problem is the fact that the suicide rate among veterans is twice that of the civilian population, evidence that the war is a decisive factor in these suicides.

While Bush and Republicans have kept the troops at war in Iraq -- and have gone to great lengths to keep them there, through extended tours of duty, stop/loss, refusing to talk about a timeline for withdrawal -- they've been less willing to go the extra mile to help the troops when they come home. Witness Bush's, McCain's and other prominent Republicans' refusal to support the Webb G.I. Bill extending further educational benefits to veterans, as well as McCain's record of voting against increasing health benefits to veterans in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

We need to bring our troops home on a reasonable timeline, but we also need to start taking better care of our returning soldiers -- a challenge that would be greatly eased if we weren't wasting $10 billion a month on the war in Iraq  Imagine the kind of care we could provide our veterans if we weren't wasting all our tax money on the war.

How much of your tax dollars are going to the war in Iraq? And what could that money buy for a veteran in need? Find out by using Progressive Future's Invest in US Calculator. The calculator takes a person's 2007 income before taxes and tells you how much of that person's tax money went to fund the war (average: $235), and how many seconds of war that bought (average: .04 seconds). Then it tells you, with that money, how many days of veterans' higher education benefits (average: 5) that money could have paid for, as well as other much needed initiatives at home. Then we are asking users to sign our Invest In US petition, which we plan on taking to Congress, the Platform Committees, and the media to push for new priorities for tax spending.

Tags: Iraq War, PTSD, veteran suicide, veterans, veterans affairs, war spending (all tags)

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