(CBS/The Early Show)
On Friday, the Dr. Phil television program became the first national mainstream talk show to devote an entire hour to the plight of veterans featuring an investigative report by CBS Chief Investigative Correspondent Armen Keteyian
that exposed an epidemic of suicide among those who have served in the military.
Dr. Phil Show Dec 19, 2008 "Beyond the Front Lines"
"They come home and have no help, no voice," said the show's host, Dr. Phil McGraw, of veterans who often feel mistreated and neglected when they return to the U.S. after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. "The system is broken," he added.
Congressman Bob Filner, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, appeared on the show along with the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, Tammy Duckworth, and Paul Rieckhoff, the executive director and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's 'Veterans Online Community'
Filner said the U.S. government was not prepared for the aftermath of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He said the current crisis in the Middle East has generated almost a million veterans and the federal agency charged with taking care of them, the Department of Veterans Affairs, is struggling to keep up with physical and mental wounds. He said there have been cases where suicidal veterans have been turned away from the VA and then kill themselves. And, he said the VA currently has a backlog of approximately 800,000 benefits claims that need to be processed.
During the show, a clip was also shown of the CBS News story that aired in November of 2007. The report, done by Keteyian, exposed for the first time just how widespread the issue of suicide is among vets. CBS News discovered that young veterans in their twenties commit suicide at a rate that is up to four times what it is for civilians the same age. Keteyian was shown questioning the VA's head of mental health, Dr. Ira Katz, who was, at the time, downplaying the risk.
Dr. Phil said the VA declined his invitation to appear on the show. He ended the program by telling veterans: "you are not forgotten." The pain of losing a loved one to suicide.
Paul Sullivan, a former VA analyst who is now the executive director of the advocate group Veterans For Common Sense, shares his insight.
The families of veterans speak out.
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