Early warnings ignored
Prior to the U.S. Invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the VA issued a report to Pentagon and White House officials saying that it expected that the number of U.S. troops who would suffer from PTSD would reach a maximum of about 8,000.
But Paul Sullivan, the executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, told lawmakers those estimates were extremely low. He continued to sound early warning alarms about the extent of PTSD cases and the likelihood of veteran suicides during numerous appearances before Congress over the years.
“The scope of PTSD in the long term is enormous and must be taken seriously. When all of our 1.6 million service members eventually return home from Iraq and Afghanistan, based on the current rate of 20 percent, VA may face up 320,000 total new veterans diagnosed with PTSD,” Sullivan told a congressional committee in July 2007. If America fails to act now and overhaul the broken DoD and VA disability systems, there may a social catastrophe among many of our returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. That is why VCS reluctantly filed suit against VA in Federal Court . . . Time is running out.”
Sullivan has urged Congress to enact legislation to overhaul the VA.
“Congress should legislate a presumption of service connection for veterans diagnosed [with] PTSD who deployed to a war zone after 9/11,” Sullivan told lawmakers last year. “A presumption makes it easier for dedicated and hard-working VA employees to process veterans’ claims. This results in faster medical treatment and benefits for our veterans.”
Yet despite Sullivan’s dire predictions and calls for legislative action the issue has not been given priority treatment by lawmakers. Instead, Congress continued to fund the war in Iraq to the tune of about $200 billion and will likely pour another $108 billion into Iraq later next month. Meanwhile, a backlog of veterans’ benefits claims continue to pile up at the VA.
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(source: "VA confirms 18 vets commit suicide every day"; Jason Leopold - Online Journal - Contributing Writer; Apr 22, 2008, 00:19)