News Release

Estimate: 120 Veteran Suicides Per Week


Late last year, a CBS News investigation found that in 2005 “there were at least 6,256 suicides among those who served in the armed forces. That’s 120 each and every week, in just one year.”

Last week, CBS News reported on data it had just obtained from the government on veterans who were recently treated by the Veterans Administration. In this limited sample, “two age groups stood out between 2000 and 2007. First, ages 20-24 — those likely to have served during the Iraq-Afghan wars. Suicide attempts rose from 11 to 47. And for vets ages 55 to 59, suicide attempts jumped from 19 to 117.”

Joyce and Kevin Lucey are the parents of Jeffrey Lucey, who committed suicide after being in Iraq for five months in 2004. Joyce Lucey said today: “My son was betrayed first by a government who sent him to war and then by the Veterans Administration for not giving him the treatment he needed. He and others died from this war but their names will never be on a memorial wall.

“The letters we received from him were brief and sanitized. But to his girlfriend of six years, he said in April of 2003 he felt he had done immoral things and that he wanted to erase the last month of his life. ‘There are things I wouldn’t want to tell you or my parents, because I don’t want you to be worried. Even if I did tell you, you’d probably think I was just exaggerating. I would never want to fight in a war again. I’ve seen and done enough horrible things to last me a lifetime.'”

Kevin Lucey said today: “Jeffrey had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but PTSD is not so much a mental dysfunction as a normal response to an abnormal situation. Jeffrey refused to go to the VA due to the stigma associated with it. We finally got him to the VA, but after he committed suicide, the VA wouldn’t give us all his medical records, claiming a Freedom of Information Act exemption. We finally managed to get the records — Jeffrey had told them how he was thinking of committing suicide and they put him down as a moderate risk.”

Joyce and Kevin Lucey testified at the recent Winter Soldier conference. Audio of their testimony is available online, as is video of various testimony.

Cpl. Cloy Richards served two tours in Iraq as a Marine, including a siege of Fallujah. He returned home suicidal and fought with the VA for almost two years trying to obtain help for his traumatic brain injury and PTSD. Ultimately, his mother had to go to Congress to obtain the help he needed.

Richards contributed several poems to Warrior Writers: Re-Making Sense, a collection of creative writing and art by members of Iraq Veterans Against the War. One of his poems, “Survivor’s Guilt,” is available online.
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Bowman testified before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in December. He said: “As my family was preparing for our 2005 Thanksgiving meal, our son Timothy was lying on the floor of my shop office, slowly bleeding to death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His war was now over, his demons were gone. Tim was laid to rest in a combination military, firefighter funeral that was a tribute to the man he was.

“Tim was the life of a party, happy-go-lucky young man that joined the National Guard in 2003 to earn money for college and get a little structure in his life. On March 19 of 2005 when Specialist Timothy Noble Bowman got off the bus with the other National Guard soldiers of Foxtrot 202 that were returning from Iraq he was a different man. He had a glaze in his eyes and a 1,000-yard stare, always looking for an insurgent. …

“[My son] was not counted in any VA statistics of any kind. He had not made it into the VA system because of the stigma of reporting mental problems, he was National Guard, and he was not on a drill weekend when he took his life. The only statistical study that he was counted in was the CBS study. And there are many more just like him. We call them KBA’s, killed because of action. The unknown fallen.”
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Sister of Walter Padilla, Yania said today: “My brother committed suicide on April 1, 2007. He was about to become engaged, they’d bought rings, they had gone house-hunting the day before. He’d been discharged with PTSD in February of 2005. He’d gone to the VA, but they just gave him some pills. He was withdrawn and introspective.”
See “Vet’s war continued at home.”

For background, see:

Suicide Epidemic Among Veterans
Nov. 13, 2007

Suicides Seen Among Vets Treated By VA
March 20, 2008

CNN reported Feb. 3, 2008 that according to the military’s own statistics: “Every day, five U.S. soldiers try to kill themselves. Before the Iraq war began, that figure was less than one suicide attempt a day.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
David Zupan, (541) 484-9167