Iraq War-Related Soldier
and Veteran Suicides Top 430
Aaron Glantz

The War Comes Home - KPFA

It’s time to change of count of American war dead upward.

The Associated Press has got hold of a preliminary government study on suicides by Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.
According to the VA, at least 283 combat veterans who left the military between the start of the war in Afghanistan on October
7, 2001 and the end of 2005 took their own lives. In addition, 147 troops have killed themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan since
the wars began bringing the government count to 430.


The VA’s count is not a complete one, however. It does not include members of the military who returned from Iraq and then
killed themselves before being discharged from the service – people like Sgt Brian Rand who shot himself in the head after
returning home from his second tour.

It also doesn’t include the deaths of people like Sgt. James Dean who was shot by Maryland state troopers after he barricaded
himself in his father’s farmhouse. Observers call those deaths “suicide by cop.”


And it doesn’t include the deaths of people like Sgt. Gerald Cassidy, a 32 year old Indiana National Guardsman, who died at
Fort Knox five months after returning from Iraq with brain damage from a roadside bomb.

How many more American deaths continue to go uncounted?

Regardless, it’s clear is that we need to change our count of casualties upward from 4,229 US military deaths (3,842 in Iraq
and 387 in Afghanistan) to closer to 5,000 – possibly more when you consider those deaths that still haven’t been counted.

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OEF/OIF Veteran Suicide Toll: Nearly 15% of Overall U.S. Military Casualties Result from Suicide

Back in February, the Marines released their military branch's updated suicide statistics. They revealed the number of Afghanistan and
Iraq combat troops and veterans who took their own lives in 2007 had doubled over the previous year.

Earlier this month, the Army reported its own current soldier suicide data, reflecting another year of record increases. And just last
week, the VA chimed in with their latest OEF/OIF veterans suicide figures -- also another record-breaker -- for its Afghanistan and Iraq
veteran clients.

Gregg Zoroya of USA Today:

In 2006, the last year for which records are available, figures show there were about 46 suicides per 100,000 male veterans ages 18-
29 who use VA services. That compares with about 20 suicides per 100,000 men of that age who are not veterans, VA records show.

The statistics accompany the release of a study conducted by a group of mental health experts appointed by VA Secretary James
Peake to investigate the department's efforts to track and prevent suicides among veterans. ...

VA records show that 141 veterans who left the military after Sept. 11, 2001, committed suicide between 2002 and 2005. In the one
year that followed, an additional 113 of the Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans killed themselves.

The report did not specify how many of those 113 saw combat. The increase in the number of suicides can be attributed in part to the
rising number of veterans since 2001. The overall suicide statistics include veterans who served during the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan but were stationed outside the combat zones. ...

The release of the VA data comes days after the Army said 2008 may be another record year for suicides among active-duty soldiers.
If the trend continues, it would surpass a record of 115 suicides set in 2007. The Army reported last week that through August, there
have been 62 confirmed suicides and 31 deaths suspected of being suicides.

"If this holds true, suicide rates for the Army will surpass" the U.S. rate for the general population, an Army news release says.

What follows below the fold is a partial, quite incomplete look at where we're at today as far as Iraq and Afghanistan troop/veteran
suicides are concerned. It's exasperating work; but, I'm in good company. Congress for years has struggled to get a straightforward
and full data set out of the DoD and the VA, too.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for much, much more...

http://ptsdcombat.blogspot.com/2008/09/oefoif-veteran-suicide-toll-15-of.html

In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.

First, a few caveats: There are all sorts of problems that exist with the data in the table below.

DoD and VA statistics -- and a description of just what incidents are and are not counted, and why one incident is included and
another not -- never seem to appear in a concise format.

Some reports, for example, don't break things down easily for us. Is the Army active-duty tally for all OEF/OIF troops or formerly-
deployed forces/veterans, or does it include non-OEF/OIF forces (for example, serving in Korea), too?

I've weeded through and broken it all down to reflect only Afghanistan and Iraq figures to the best of my knowledge and ability. I
welcome any additions of data and/or corrections that you may find and care to share.

OEF/OIF Suicides

Active-duty military forces

Marines, active-duty forces, deployed, 2003: 2
Army, active-duty forces, deployed, 2003: 25
Marines, active-duty forces, deployed, 2004: 7
Army, active-duty forces, deployed, 2004: 11
Marines, active-duty forces, deployed, 2005: 4
Marines, active-duty forces, deployed, 2006: 4
Army, active-duty forces, deployed, 2005-2006: 120
Marines, active-duty forces, deployed, 2007: 6
Army, active-duty forces, deployed, 2007: 115
Army, active-duty forces, deployed, January-August 2008: 62
Army, active-duty forces, deployed, through August 2008 (suspected): 31
Army, active-duty forces, between deployments, 2002-2008: ???
Army, active-duty forces, suicide attempts, 2002: 350
Army, active-duty forces, suicide attempts, 2007: 2,100 [5 per day]

Veterans
Marines, active-duty, prior deployed, 2003: 6
Marines, active-duty, prior deployed, 2004: 10
Marines, active-duty, prior deployed, 2005: 8
Marines, active-duty, prior deployed, 2006: 5
Marines, active-duty, prior deployed, 2007: 12
Veterans, separated from service, under VA care, 2002-2005: 141
Veterans, separated from service, under VA care, 2006: 113
Veterans, separated from service, not under VA care, 2002-2008: ??? [*at least 139]

OEF/OIF Suicide Totals
Active-duty military forces: 356 [+another 31 suspected]
Veterans: 295 [+another 139 not officially counted by DoD or VA]
-------------------------------------------------------------------
356+295=651 OEF/OIF active-duty troop or veteran suicides.

If we were to add in the 139 the DoD and the VA appear not to be counting (see note below), the figure rises to 790. And, if we add
in the 31 suspected 2008 suicides still being investigated by the DoD, the number grows to 821.

As of today, there have been over 4, 700 U.S. OEF/OIF casualties.

If we use the conservative suicide figure above of 651, doing the math, that translates to nearly 15% (13.82 to be exact) of our
Afghanistan and Iraq war losses are as a result of suicide.

If we plug in the higher figure (821), the percentage jumps to over 17% (17.43).

*Important note on the above figures:

In October, AP reported on preliminary VA research at the time, which revealed that 283 OEF/OIF veterans had committed suicide
between 2001-2005.

This was the figure that I was prepared to use when testifying before the House Veterans Affairs Committee in December on this
issue at the Stopping Suicide: Mental Health Challenges Within the Department of Veterans Affairs hearing.

I noted in my testimony [read | view] that the combined reported DoD and VA figures reflected the fact that 10 percent (at the
time) of our overall service member casualties in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are as a result of suicide.

The night before the hearing, I reviewed the VA's prepared remarks slated to be delivered the following day. That's when I first
noticed the change. The VA figure had been decreased by 139 (from the original 283), to a total of 144 OEF/OIF suicides. Of
course, I became curious: What happened to the 139 no longer being counted?

I was able to get my question answered pretty quickly.

Following my testimony, VA Mental Health Director Dr. Ira Katz (who was quite gracious and kind to me, although he's come
understandably under fire quite a bit since then for his less-than-full disclosure of the VA's suicide data) introduced himself,
giving me the chance to ask him privately about the changed suicide tally.

Why had the figure been reduced?

He went into a long explanation, saying that the VA incorrectly counted some veterans in their system, who in reality were still
considered a part of the DoD when they died. Therefore, they weren't official VA clients and need not be included in their count.

After going back-and-forth a bit to get some more clarification, my best understanding of this logic is that 139 OEF/OIF veterans
aren't being recognized in our official OEF/OIF veterans suicide data due to a mere technicality.

For example, Iraq veterans like Timothy Bowman, who'd returned to the states but had not yet enrolled in the VA for care when he
committed suicide, for some strange reason doesn't need to be considered part of the overall data.

Since he wasn't a VA client, he isn't counted in the VA statistics. And since he wasn't deployed when he committed suicide, the
DoD doesn't appear to include him, either, when it reports on how many of its combat zone troops have perished this way.

Is this really the best way for us to go about trying to get a real handle on the depth and breath of the OEF/OIF suicide issue?

I don't think so. Anyone else feel the same way?

Some related stats:

Nearly 40% of Army suicides in 2006 and 2007 were taking psychotropic drugs like Zoloft and Prozac for depression and PTSD.


Nearly 60% of 948 Army suicide attempts in 2006 had been seen by mental health providers before the attempt - 36 percent
within just 30 days of the event.


More than 43,000 U.S. troops since 2003 were sent into combat even though they had been listed as medically unfit in the weeks
before their scheduled deployment.


The "typical" soldier who commits suicide is a member of an infantry unit who uses a firearm to carry out the act, according to
the Army.


53% of veteran suicides from 2001-2005 came from the Guard or Reserve population; for a period during 2005, they accounted
for about 50% of forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, when averaging all war years, they made up 28% of all U.S.
military forces deployed.


100,000 OEF/OIF vets have sought help for mental health issues, including 52,000 for post-traumatic stress disorder alone.


According to the DoD, there were almost 2,200 active-duty soldier suicides between 1995-2007.


CBS News reported in November that there were at least 6,256 veteran (of all wars) suicides in 2005 [this figure includes data
collected from 45 states; the figure is, therefore, higher if taking all 50 states into account]. That’s 120 each and every week. In
addition, on any given night, nearly 200,000 veterans are counted among the homeless.


In 2005, OEF/OIF veterans aged 20 through 24 had the highest suicide rate among all vets, about 2-4 times higher than their
civilians peers. (Civilian suicide rate: 8.3 per 100,000; Veterans suicide rate: between 22.9 and 31.9 per 100,000.)


A 2007 survey of U.S. troops revealed that about 12% of OIF and 17% of OEF combat troops are taking prescription
antidepressants or sleeping pills to help them cope.


The new VA suicide prevention hotline, recently reported that it's received more
than 55,000 calls, averaging 120 per day, with about 22,000 callers saying they were
veterans.


Related Posts

Tallying War's Increasing Costs and Strains

The War List: OEF/OIF Statistics

VA Patient Suicide Attempts Rise Dramatically

AP: Over 50% of VA's OEF/OIF Veteran Suicides from Guard/Reserve

Groundbreaking CBS News Investigation Into Veteran Suicide 'Epidemic'

CBS Evening News Veteran Suicide Investigation Follow-up

VA Reports Nearly 300 Estimated OEF/OIF Veteran Suicides
More than 50% of Army's 948 Suicide Attempts in 2006 Sought Help First

OEF/OIF Vets Seeking PTSD Care from VA Jumps 70%, Mental Health Counseling Tops 100,000

Fort Campbell: 9 Suicides in 2007, 3 in Last 2 Weeks Moves Commanding General to Act

Is the Army 'Spinning' its Increase in Suicides?

Last Year's 99 Army Suicides Highest in Recorded History

As Another Suicide Occurs, Minnesota Leaders Urge DoD to Revise Post-Deployment Contact Rules

Family Sues VA for Iraq Veteran Son's 2004 Suicide

Flash Video Remembers 100+ OEF/OIF Veteran Suicides

Returning Veterans and Suicide: Alaska's Perfect Storm?

Family 'Respectfully Disagrees' With VA Report on Son's Suicide

Montana Iraq Vet Suicide Reflects VA, Military System Failure

PTSD Timeline: The Latest Incidents

20 War Zone Suicides So Far in 2006

WUSF 89.7 News: Report on Combat Zone Suicides

Combat PTSD Timeline: 41 Stateside OEF/OIF Suicides

Combat PTSD: Incident Database for Reporters, Researchers

Army: 83 suicides in 2005, 67 in 2004

Marine Corps Suicides Spiked 29% in 2004

Fear That Suicides
May Top War Deaths

Agence France-Presse


Suicides and "psychological mortality" among U.S. Soldiers who
served in Iraq and Afghanistan could exceed battlefield deaths if
their mental scars are left untreated, the head of the U.S. Institute
of Mental Health is warning.

Of the 1.6 million U.S. troops who have been deployed in Iraq and
Afghanistan, 18-20 percent -- or around 300,000 -- show
symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression or
both, said Thomas Insel, head of the National Institute of Mental
Health.

An estimated 70 percent of those at-risk Soldiers do not seek help
from the Department of Defense or the Veterans Administration,
he told a news conference May 5 launching the American
Psychiatric Association' s 161st annual meeting here.

If "one just does the math", then allowing PTSD or depression to
go untreated in such numbers could result in "suicides and
psychological mortality trumping combat deaths" in Iraq and
Afghanistan, Insel warned.

More than 4,000 U.S. Soldiers have died in Iraq since the U.S.
invasion of 2003, and more than 400 in Afghanistan since the U.S.
led attacks there in 2001, of which some 290 were killed in action
and the rest in on-combat deaths.

"It's predicted that most Soldiers -- 70 percent -- will not seek
treatment through the DoD or VA," Insel said at the meeting, at
which the psychological impact of war is expected to top the
agenda over the next four days.

Left untreated, PTSD and depression can lead to substance
abuse, alcoholism or other life-threatening behaviors.

"It's a gathering storm for the civilian and public health care
sectors," Insel said.

He urged public-sector mental health caregivers to recognize the
symptoms of psychological troubles resulting from deployment to a
war zone and be ready to provide adequate care for both Soldiers
and their families.

Other items on the agenda at the meeting, set to be attended by
some 19,000 psychiatrists and mental health practitioners from
around the world, include violence in schools, the psychology of
extremism, and more light-hearted topics such as how music
affects mood.


'Houston Chronicle'
Uncovers Another Iraq Vet
Suicide -- And His Wife Soon
Joined Him

By Greg Mitchell

NEW YORK Literally every day now brings a report on a suicide by
a veteran of the Iraq war who served multiple tours there and/or
suffered from PTSD. In most cases, the stories emerge from small
town newspapers, as E&P has chronicled for nearly five years.
Today's example comes from a much bigger paper, the Houston
Chronicle, and probes at length a case that occurred last year.

And in this case, the soldier's wife joined him as a suicide the
following day.

The article by Lindsay Wise on Aron Andersson and Cassy Walton
observes that when the former "killed himself on March 6, 2007, he
became one of at least 16 Army recruiters to commit suicide
nationwide since 2000. Five of those suicides occurred in Texas,
including three at the Houston Recruiting Battalion, where
Andersson worked after serving two tours of duty in Iraq.

"Roughly one in five U.S. troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan
reports symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or major
depression, but only slightly more than half have sought treatment,
according to a recently published Rand Corp. study. Of those who
did seek care, only about half received minimally adequate
treatment, the study found.

"Amid increasing concerns about failure to screen, diagnose and
treat soldiers with mental health problems adequately, Andersson's
story raises questions about the pressures faced by the growing
number of veterans who return from multiple combat deployments
to high-stress recruiting assignments back home."

The article talks about the soldier's experience in Iraq and return
home: "The only thing the father knew for sure was that his son had
changed. He was more frustrated, less patient and harder to talk to.
'Did he come back different? Yeah,' Bob Andersson said. 'I don't
think there's anybody who goes over there and fights on the front
lines who ever comes back the same.'

"The soldier once told his father about working a barricade in Iraq
when a white van barreled toward U.S. troops, ignoring warning
shots and orders to stop. 'It was definitely a suicide mission, and he
said this van full of people came in and they had to, quote, light it
up,' Bob Andersson said. 'And he said there were children in there
and everything. I could tell that really, really, bothered him.'"
15,000 or more US
casualties
in Iraq War          
By Mike Whitney

11/17/07 "ICH" -- -- The Pentagon has been concealing the true
number of American casualties in the Iraq War. The real number
exceeds 15,000 and CBS News can prove it.

CBS’s Investigative Unit  wanted to do a report on the number of
suicides in the military and “submitted a Freedom of Information
Act request to the Department of Defense”. After 4 months they
received a document which showed--that between 1995 and
2007--there were 2,200 suicides among “active duty” soldiers.

Baloney.

The Pentagon was covering up the real magnitude of the “suicide
epidemic”. Following an exhaustive investigation of veterans’
suicide data collected from 45 states; CBS discovered that in
2005 alone “THERE WERE AT LEAST 6,256   AMONG THOSE
WHO SERVED IN THE ARMED FORCES. THAT’S 120 EACH AND
EVERY WEEK IN JUST ONE YEAR.”

That is not a typo. Active and retired military personnel, mostly
young veterans between the ages of 20 to 24, are returning from
combat and killing themselves in record numbers. We can
assume that "multiple-tours of duty" in a war-zone have
precipitated a mental health crisis of which the public is entirely
unaware and which the Pentagon is in total denial.

If we add the 6,256 suicide victims from 2005 to the “official”
3,865 reported combat casualties; we get a sum of 10,121. Even
a low-ball estimate of similar 2004 and 2006 suicide figures, would
mean that the total number of US casualties from the Iraq war now
exceed 15,000.

That’s right; 15,000 dead US servicemen and women in a war
that--as yet--has no legal or moral justification.

CBS interviewed Dr. Ira Katz, the head of mental health at the
Department of Veteran Affairs. Katz attempted to minimize the
surge in veteran suicides saying, “There is no epidemic of suicide
in the VA, but suicide is a major problem.”
Maybe Katz right. Maybe there is no epidemic. Maybe it’s perfectly
normal for young men and women to return from combat, sink into
inconsolable depression, and kill themselves at greater rates than
they were dying on the battlefield. Maybe it’s normal for the
Pentagon to abandon them as soon as soon they return from
their mission so they can blow their brains out or hang themselves
with a garden hose in their basement. Maybe it's normal for
politicians to keep funding wholesale slaughter while they brush
aside the casualties they have produced by their callousness and
lack of courage. Maybe it is normal for the president to persist
with the same, bland lies that perpetuate the occupation and
continue to kill scores of young soldiers who put themselves in
harm’s-way for their country.  
It’s not normal; it’s is a pandemic---an outbreak of despair which is
the natural corollary of living in constant fear; of seeing one’s
friends being dismembered by roadside bombs or children being
blasted to bits at military checkpoints or finding battered bodies
dumped on the side of a riverbed like a bag of garbage.
The rash of suicides is the logical upshot of Bush’s war. Returning
soldiers are traumatized by their experience and now they are
killing themselves in droves. Maybe we should have thought
about that before we invaded.

Iraq war vets' suicide rates analyzed
High numbers found among members of
Guard, Reserves
Kimberly Hefling, Associated Press

Wednesday, February 13, 2008
More than half of veterans who took their own lives after returning
from Iraq or Afghanistan were members of the National Guard or
Reserves, according to new government data that prompted activists
on Tuesday to call for a closer examination of the problem.

A Department of Veterans Affairs analysis of ongoing research of
deaths among veterans of both wars found that Guard or Reserve
members accounted for 53 percent of the veteran suicides from
2001, when the war in Afghanistan began, through the end of 2005.

The research, conducted by the department's Office of
Environmental Epidemiology, provides the first demographic look at
suicides among veterans from those wars who left the military.

Joe Davis, public affairs director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars,
said the Pentagon and VA must combine efforts to track suicides
among those who have served in those countries to get a clearer
picture of the problem.

At certain times in 2005, members of the Guard and Reserve made
up almost half the troops fighting in Iraq. Overall, they were almost 28
percent of all U.S. military forces deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan or in
support of the operations, according to Defense Department data
through the end of 2007.

Many Guard members and Reservists have done multiple tours that
kept them away from home for 18 months, and that is taking a toll,
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in a statement Tuesday.

"Until this administration understands that repeated and prolonged
deployments are stretching our brave men and women to the brink,
we will continue to see these tragic figures," Murray said.

Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of
America, said the military's effort to rescreen Guard members and
Reservists for mental and physical problems three months after they
return home is a positive step, but a more long-term, comprehensive
approach is needed to help them.

The VA has said there does not appear to be an epidemic of suicide
among returning veterans, and suicide among the newer veterans is
comparable to the same demographic group in the general
population.

But an escalating suicide rate in the Army, as well as high-profile
suicides such as the death of Joshua Omvig - an Iowa Reservist who
shot himself in front of his mother in December 2005 after an
11-month tour in Iraq - have alarmed some members of Congress
and advocates.

In November, President Bush signed the Joshua Omvig suicide
prevention bill, which directed the VA to improve its mental health
training for staff.

According to the VA's research, 144 veterans committed suicide from
the start of the war in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, through the end
of 2005. Of those, 35 veterans, or 24 percent, served in the
Reserves and 41, or 29 percent, served in the National Guard.
Sixty-eight - or 47 percent - had been in the regular military. Statistics
from 2006 and 2007 were not yet available, the VA said.

Among the total population of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who
have been discharged from the military, almost half are formerly
regular military and a little more than half were in the Guard and
Reserves, according to the VA.

Among those studied, more than half of the veterans who committed
suicide were aged 20 to 29. Almost three-quarters used a firearm to
take their lives. Almost 82 percent were white.

The VA study does not include those who committed suicide in the
war zones or those who remained in the military after returning home
from war.

Last year, the Army said its suicide rate in 2006 rose to 17.3 per
100,000 troops, the highest level in 26 years of record keeping. The
Army said recently that as many as 121 soldiers committed suicide
last year. If all are confirmed, the number would be more than double
the number reported in 2001.

Hot line
Veterans Affairs Department suicide hot line: (800) 273-8255