Congress Vows Action On Vets' Suicides

Mike Bowman, right, receives a kiss from his wife Kim Bowman of Forreston, Ill., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007, as he prepared to deliver his opening statement prior to testifying before the House Veteran's Affairs Committee hearing on mental health issues and suicides facing veterans. The Bowman's son, Tim Bowman, pictured in the foreground, committed suicide after serving in the Iraq war with the Illinois National Guard, Bravo Troop, 106 Calvary. AP

A CBS News investigation found that, in 2005, an average of 120 people each week who had served in the military committed suicide. That's an average twice that of non-veterans. Today, in an emotional hearing Capitol Hill, Congress took up that cause.

The day's emotional tone was set right from the start. Mike and Kim Bowman's 23-year-old son, Tim, had survived a year-long tour in Iraq, only to shoot himself at home.

"Our veterans deserve better," Mike Bowman told a congressional hearing Wednesday. "Don't make it so the soldiers go to the VA; make the VA go to the soldier."

When Bowman had finished speaking, the room was on its feet, CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteian reports.

Throughout the hearing, members of Congress cited the CBS News investigation as a national wake-up call.

"The CBS network opened up again to millions of Americans the issue of suicides amongst our veterans," said Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Read the original CBS News investigation into veteran suicide

Read the statistical methodology of the CBS News findings
FYI: More resources for veterans and their families
Not surprisingly, most criticism was directed at the Department of Veteran's Affairs and Dr. Ira Katz, its head of mental health, who disputed our findings.

"Their number is not, in fact, an accurate reflection of the rates," Katz said.

But the committee proved far more interested in the VA's failure to foresee a mental health "epidemic" by not collecting nationwide data on suicides.

"You don't track this stuff," Filner said. "You simply don't track; you don't want to know about it."

Moved by what they had heard, many pledged to force the VA to fix a system under siege - and keep other families from suffering the same fate as those who testified today.
  • Armen Keteyian

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