Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America

JWV Demands Improvement in Treating Returning Troops and Preventing Military Suicides

December 2009



The Jewish War Veterans of the USA (JWV) applauds the efforts that are being made to reach out to veterans, especially those returning from recent deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, but more must be done to ease the transition from military to civilian life.

At a time when military suicides are on track for a fifth consecutive yearly increase, both the Departments of Defense and the Departments of Veterans Affairs must do more to both prevent suicides and remove the stigma from seeking help for PTSD and other mental health issues that may lead to suicide. More than 600 soldiers and Marines have killed themselves between 2003 and 2008.

Recent efforts, such as the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program that is being used throughout the Army, Army Reserve, and National Guard and equates both mental health and physical health, are on the right track to help prevent PTSD and subsequent possible suicides, but more needs to be done, including full access to VA health facilities for both those suffering from PTSD and for those who have already attempted suicide.

In addition, the dependents of those returning veterans who have committed suicide, should be entitled to the same benefits as are the dependents of those who were killed in battle. As Major General Mark Graham, who has lost two sons, one to suicide and another to a roadside bomb, has said, "Both of my sons died fighting different battles."

The JWV urges an increased effort both on preventative programs and, when those fail, treatment programs for returning veterans, especially in their transition to civilian life, and a full recognition for both the suicide victim and his or her dependents that the suicide is as much a victim of war as is the soldier who dies on the battlefield. Death makes no distinction.

 

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