Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Silent Killer Among Our Troops

This post originally appeared on the Intrepid Life Brewing blog on 24 September 2012.

There is a silent epidemic killing U.S. servicemembers and veterans in America. It takes out a platoon of soldiers each month. Around a battalion of veterans falls victim to it monthly. When you speak to people about the statistics their first reaction is disbelief. Unfortunately, the numbers are correct. This killer is suicide. Eighteen veterans attempt suicide each day. In most months, fifteen to thirty active duty soldiers, sailors, Marines, or airmen commit suicide. In some months, such as July 2012, more troops are lost to suicide than to combat.

Multiple combat deployments, PTSD/TBI, depression, and family or financial troubles cause great hardship. It is indisputable that the military can be a hard life. Men and women who come home and hang up their uniform to enter the civilian world find themselves on new and unfamiliar terrain. America’s current economic troubles don’t help any and young veterans have struggled in particular to find work, more so than their non-veteran counterparts. All of these contribute to the suicide problem.

Recognizing the problem, President Obama has issued an executive order increasing the number of mental health professionals at the VA, increasing cooperation with local community mental health care providers, and increasing funding for research into the problem. Some in Congress have also taken up the issue in hearings and legislation. However, the VA already has thousands of vacant positions for mental health professionals and creating more may not be enough help. Additionally, fights over cuts in federal spending may mean cuts to VA funding in coming years. Whatever the barrier is that is keeping these mental health jobs open must be removed and these positions filled. Cutting funding for vets programs just when a new generation of veterans needs it most is irresponsible.

Funding for veterans programs must not fall victim to cuts. This is a problem that is not going away and ignoring it will likely make it worse. There are things worth paying for. Using taxpayer dollars to ensure someone is there for those who were there when the country needed them is one of these things. This silent epidemic must be stopped. If we continue to treat those who fight for the country so poorly there may be no one there to answer the call of duty.