VIDEO: VA accused of covering up soldier suicides

WASHINGTON – The chief mental health official for the Veterans…

WASHINGTON – The chief mental health official for the Veterans Affairs Department is being asked to resigned by two Democratic senators who believe Dr. Ira Katz withheld crucial information on the true suicide risk among veterans. In an effort to control these allegations while supplying opposing data, the Department of Veterans Affairs will begin contacting nearly 570,000 recent combat veterans May 1 to ensure they know about VA’s medical services and other benefits. For more information on the possible resignation of VA’s chief mental health official, click here and return back to comment. To read more on what the DoD is doing to collect data, see article below.

WASHINGTON, April 25, 2008 – The Department of Veterans Affairs will begin contacting nearly 570,000 recent combat veterans May 1 to ensure they know about VA’s medical services and other benefits.
“We will reach out and touch every veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom to let them know we are here for them,” said Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. James B. Peake, a retired lieutenant general who served as Army surgeon general. “VA is committed to getting these veterans the help they need and deserve.”

A contractor-operated “Combat Veteran Call Center” will telephone two distinct populations of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, officials said. In the first phase, calls will go to an estimated 17,000 veterans who were sick or injured while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. VA will offer to appoint a care manager to work with them if they don’t have one already. Care managers ensure veterans receive appropriate care and know about their VA benefits.

For five years after their discharge from the military, these combat veterans have special access to VA health care. The department screens combat veterans for signs of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. VA personnel have been deployed to the military’s major medical centers to assist wounded service members and their families during the transition to civilian lives.

The new call center’s second phase will target 550,000 Afghanistan and Iraq veterans who have been discharged from active duty but have not contacted VA for services. Once contacted, veterans will be informed about VA’s benefits and services. The initial calls will be made by a private contractor, EDS, which specializes in technology services to improve business. If needed, VA employees will make follow-up calls, officials said.

“We will leave no stone unturned to reach these veterans,” said Dr. Edward Huycke, chief of the Veterans Affairs – Defense Department coordination office.

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