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U.S. House Letter on Veteran and Military Suicide

On March 4, 2013 fifty-three members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Hagel and Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Shinseki calling for them to share blast-trauma related research and add important areas of inquiry to the National Mortality Study on veterans investigate the linkages from blast-trauma, low level traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other IED effects on suicides. The letter is in response to the increasing number of active duty and veteran suicides despite the numerous programs implemented by the the military services and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). According to the most recent data, active duty personnel committed suicide at a rate of almost one every day in 2012. The statistics are even higher for veterans with 18 to 22 veterans are estimated to have committed suicide every day that same year.

 As pointed out by Blinded Veterans Association spokesman Tom Zampieri, “post-traumatic atress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder, depressive symptoms, and traumatic brain injury (TBI) are the conditions being assessed most often in servicemembers returning from combat. In addition, there are obvious mechanisms that might link each of these conditions to IED blast specific experiences in war—i.e., depression can be a reaction to loss; PTSD, a reaction to trauma; and TBI, a consequence of blast exposure or other head injury.”

According to VA Office Public Health Epidemiological Report on OEF/OIF/OND 866,182 veterans have enrolled in VA health care since October 1, 2001 to end of Fourth Quarter September 30, 2012. “Of great concern to us,” says Zampieri “in regards to these injuries is 47.6% of them are between 23 and 32 years of age. Over 80% of the injuries experienced by military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq are from IEDs. Despite these statistics, there has not been adequate research into the possible link between TBI and other IED related injuries and suicides.

The letter from Members of Congress calls for the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to explore the possible relationship between IED related injuries and suicides and then report back to Congress on the results. It calls on them to share blast-trauma related information between DoD, the VA, and private sector as well as blast event data and coordinate with the Global Campaign against IEDs. The letter shows significant bipartisan support. Signatories include representatives and leadership from key House committees. Six Veterans groups and related organizations formally endorsed the letter including AMVETS, Blinded Veterans of America (BVA), Global Campaign against IEDs, The Graffiti of War Project, Partners International Foundation, and Veterans Association of America (VVA)

“Far too many of our veterans and military personnel have taken their own life after bravely serving our nation. Frankly, it’s tragic and unacceptable.” said Congressman Dan Benishek, M.D., Congressional co-sponsor of the letter.  Dr. Benishek was previously a surgeon who worked at a VA Medical Center.

"The rate of suicide among our veterans is alarming and unacceptable, "U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) said. "There is particular evidence linking suicide to those wounded by IEDs. It is my hope that through additional research we will be able to identify and reverse this painful trend. One suicide is too many and we should do all we can to address this as quickly as possible."

The letter advances the previous call to action by 92 Members of the House of Representatives in their May 3, 2012 Letter to President Obama urging him to direct the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop a U.S. Government strategy partnered with Veterans Service Organizations, Military Service Organizations, and other public-private partners to identify the long term physical and psycho-social effects of IED related injuries; share findings and best practices with appropriate agencies and the private sector; and ensure adequate programs and benefits are available to affected veterans and their care-givers. Congress is still awaiting a complete response to their May letter.

Download the letter and background information at: www.CampaignAgainstIEDs.org/PressPack3.pdf.

Signatories to Military and Veteran Suicide Letter by State

All Members of the House were contacted and afforded the opportunity to sign the letter regarding military and veteran suicide. The following summarizes the response of elected officials by State.

Alabama

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

Alaska

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

American Samoa

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

Arizona

3 Signatories 
Representative Kyrsten Sinema (D)
Representative Raul Grijalva (D)
Representative Ron Barber (D)

Arkansas

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

California

9 Signatories
Representative Julia Brownley (D)
Representative Barbara Lee (D)
Representative Gloria McLeod (D)  
Representative Ken Calvert (D)
Representative Alan Lowenthal (D)
Representative Mark Takano (D) 
Representative Juan Vargas (D)  
Representative Mike Honda (D)
Representative Raul Ruiz (D)

Colorado

1 Signatories 
Representative Mike Coffman (R)

Connecticut

1 Signatories
Representative Jim Himes 

Delaware

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

District of Columbia

1 Signatories 
Representative Elanor Holmes Norton (D)

Florida

1 Signatories 
Representative Kathy Castor (D)

Georgia

1 Signatories 
Representative Lynn Westmoreland (R)

Guam

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

Hawaii

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

Illinois

3 Signatories 
Representative Bobby Rish (IL)
Representative Tammy Duckworth (IL) 
Representative Jan Schakowsky (D)

Indiana

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

Iowa

1 Signatories 
Representative Tom Latham (R)

Kansas

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

Kentucky

1 Signatories 
Representative Ed Whitfield (R)

Maine

1 Signatories 
Representative Mike Michaud (D) - Ranking Member, House Veterans Affairs Committee

Maryland

2Signatories 
Representative Ruppersberger (D) - Ranking Member, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
Representative Any Harris, M.D. (R)

Massachusetts

2 Signatories 
Representative Gerry Connolly (D)
Representative James McGovern (D)

Michigan

3 Signatories
Representative Dan Benishek (R)
Representative Jon Conyers (D)
Representative Kerry Bentivolio (MI

Minnesota

1 Signatories 
Representative Tim Walz (D)

Mississippi

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

Missouri

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

Montana

1 Signatories 
Representative Steve Daines (R)

Nebraska

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

Nevada

1 Signatories 
Representative Dina Titus (D)

New Hampshire

1 Signatories 
Representative Ann McLaneKuster (D)

New Jersey

1 Signatories 
Representative Donald Payne (D)

New Mexico

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

New York

3 Signatories 
Representative Charlie Rangel (D)
Representative Richard Hanna (R)
Representative Louise Slaughter (D)

North Carolina

1 Signatories 
Representative Walter Jones (R)

North Dakota

1 Signatories 
Representative Kevin Cramer (R)

Northern Marianas Islands

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

Ohio

3 Signatories 
Representative Tim Tyan (D)
Representative Marcia Fudge (D)
Representative Robert Latta (D)

Oklahoma

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

Oregon

1 Signatories 
Representative Earl Blumenauer (D)

Pennsylvania

2 Signatories 
Representative Mike Fitzpatrick (R)
Representative Keith Rothfus (R)

Puerto Rico

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

Rhode Island

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

South Carolina

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

South Dakota

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

Tennessee

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

Texas

2 Signatories 
Representative Gene Green (D)
Representative Beto O'Rourke (D)

Utah

1 Signatories 
Representative Chris Stewart (R)

Vermont

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

Virginia

1 Signatories 
Representative Frank Wolfe (R)

Virgin Islands

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

Washington

2 Signatories 
Representative Rick Larson (D)
Representative Jim McDermott (D)

West Virginia

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

Wisconsin

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide

Wyoming

To date, no House member has agreed to sign the letter on military and veteran suicide