Calls for VA's top official to resign

I’d been meaning to talk about this story but it’s progressed faster than my typing hands can keep up.

An e-mail sent around at the Veterans Health Administration among Dr. Ira Katz, the VA mental health director, and other officials, discussed the issue of hiding the number of suicides committed by veterans from the public—an estimated five out 18 of them being under VA care. Now, a number of senators (and bloggers) are calling for Katz’s resignation.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., on Tuesday called
for the chief mental health official of the U.S. Department of Veterans
Affairs to resign, saying he tried to cover up the rising number of
veteran suicides.

"It is completely outrageous that the federal agency charged with
helping veterans would instead cover up the hard truth – that more and
more Americans coming home after bravely fighting for their country are
suffering from mental illnesses and in the most tragic circumstances,
committing suicide," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. "Anyone at the VA
who is involved in this cover-up should be removed immediately."

From John Grohol at PsychCentral:

should immediately resign. There’s no excuse for trying to whitewash
this sort of problem. In order to help vets with suicide, the VA and
government first have to acknowledge the significance and extent of the
problem. Playing with the numbers isn’t a good way to start this effort.

U.S. vets deserve the best health care and mental health care we can afford.

They also deserve the truth.

And Philip Dawdy at Furious Seasons:

don’t even understand how lying about such an obvious problem would
benefit the agency. Lying about it certainly misinforms the public and
Congress about a serious problem in our culture that demands attention.

Like John Grohol at Psych Central, I think Katz needs to resign.
He might want to do so soon, as Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) is on his
case also, and she’s the ranking member on the Senate’s Veteran Affairs

This news came to light as a result
of a lawsuit that claims the VA has not adequately treated veterans
with mental illness. On Monday, a lawyer representing the government
asked the judge overseeing the case to dismiss the lawsuit because the
VA runs "a world-class medical care system." If it’s so "world-class,"
I’d like explanations on this, this, and this.

I have to hand it to the 110th Congress. I really feel like they’ve
made mental health a priority. They’ve worked on legislation such as
the mental health parity bill and the MOTHERS Act
that have helped to raise awareness and decrease the stigma surrounding
mental illness. As a result of the veterans-suicide cover up, Sens.
Murray, Tom Harkin, and Russ Feingold introduced legislation on Tuesday
that would require the VA to report the number of suicides committed by
vets annually. At the current time, they only track the number of
suicides in VA facilities.

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