Members of US veteran associations have been trying to draw public attention to the growing suicide rate among US veterans, particularly those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They blame state-run institutions for failing to provide timely professional support to soldiers suffering from posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD). Suicide epidemic among the military is blamed on the US Department of Veterans Affairs, an organization which has more than once come under harsh criticism.
In May of 2011 the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit accused the Department of “unchecked incompetence” and ordered it to overhaul the way it provides mental health care and disability benefits. Noting that an average of 18 veterans commit suicide every day, Judge Stephen Reinhardt said that the duty of the society was to demand that the government performed its obligations. Representatives of the department appealed against the court’s decision which yet has not come into force.
Meanwhile, new cases of suicide among the veterans are reported almost daily, proving that the government remains blind to the problem. The Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Department, which is home to the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, has been showing the poorest record on the suicide rate.
Last Wednesday, the V.A. Inspector General in Washington released the results of a nine-month investigation into the May 2010 death of William Hamilton, a mentally ill 26-year-old who served in Iraq and killed himself by stepping in front of a train. The report said that social workers at the Palo Alto department, who were responsible for watching Hamilton`s mental state, failed negative changes happening to their patient.
Before Mr. Hamilton killed himself, he said he saw demon women and regularly talked to a man he had killed in Iraq. Mr. Hamilton’s father brought him to a community hospital, where he was not accepted by a department social worker because the veteran was transferred at the very end of the working day.
Another shocking death happened earlier this month when the 27-year-old Iraq war veteran Abel Gutierrez killed his mother and 11-year-old sister before shooting himself. The tragedy happened despite the fact that Gutierrez`s relatives had repeatedly contacted the US Department of Veterans Affairs asking for hospitalization for the mentally-unfit veteran.
Red tape and neglectful attitude have long become common at the VA Department. Recently the organization has again come under criticism in relation to the massacre in Afghanistan, where on March 23 US soldier Robert Bales killed 17 Afghan civilians, among then 9 children. It turned out that Bales, who got a brain injury in Iraq, is suffering from the PTSD. Despite the fact that Bales had repeatedly complained on his mental state, he was proclaimed ‘fit for military service’. During an authorized re-examination of soldiers diagnosed with the PTSD it was revealed that 40 percent of soldiers had their diagnosis reversed, Reuters reported quoting a source at Joint Base Lewis McCord.
The growing suicide rate in the US military has revealed that the US government hardly cares for those who defend its interests at war. Meanwhile, nobody can be 100 percent sure that the next tragedy involving a mentally-unstable soldier won`t happen on US territory and not somewhere in Afghanistan.