News Release

“The Truth About Veteran Suicides”


The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee is holding a hearing Tuesday at 10 a.m., “The Truth About Veteran Suicides.” It will be webcast on their website.

Among those testifying is Steve Rathbun from the University of Georgia, who has been cited in a CBS News investigation on veteran suicides: “In 2005 … in just those 45 states, 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.

“Dr. Steve Rathbun is the acting head of the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Department at the University of Georgia. CBS News asked him to run a detailed analysis of the raw numbers that we obtained from state authorities for 2004 and 2005. … One age group stood out. Veterans aged 20 through 24, those who have served during the war on terror. They had the highest suicide rate among all veterans, estimated between two and four times higher than civilians the same age.”

Glantz is author of the upcoming book The War Comes Home: Washington’s Battle Against America’s Veterans.
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Coleman is the widow of a Vietnam War veteran who took his own life after coming home. Her latest book is Flashback: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide and the Lessons of War” and her recent articles include “Veterans’ Suicides: A Hidden Cost of Bush’s Wars.”

She said today: “Another hearing. But let’s be real. War has always broken the hearts and spirits of soldiers. What’s happening now has happened before — and not very long ago. In the aftermath of the war in Vietnam, tens of thousands of veterans executed themselves for what they had done or euthanized themselves because they couldn’t stand the pain of their memories. That’s what war does, what it costs. It is astonishing how absolutely that inconvenient truth gets forgotten. These hearings may rid us of a few forked-tongued company men, but it would be a tragedy if we settled for that. They are just following orders.”
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Background: See March 24, 2008 news release from the Institute for Public Accuracy, “Estimate: 120 Veteran Suicides Per Week.”

A recent piece by Glantz, “Vets’ Lawsuit Opens Door on Suicides, Poor Care,” notes:

“In one e-mail made public during the trial, the head of the VA’s Mental Health division, Dr. Ira Katz, advised a media spokesperson not to tell reporters 1,000 veterans receiving care at the VA try to kill themselves every month.

“‘Shh!’ the e-mail begins.

“‘Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among the 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?’ the e-mail concludes.

“According to CBS News, Katz’s email was written shortly after the VA provided the network with data showing there were only 790 attempted suicides in all of 2007 — a fraction of Katz’s estimate.”

The full article is available online.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167