I figure as an investigative reporter when folks start questioning my patriotism or citizenship I'm on the right track.
So it was last December when the VA's head of mental health, Dr. Ira Katz, went before Congress and went after CBS News and our data revealing an "epidemic" of suicides among those who have served in the military.
I knew how much work producer Pia Malbran and other members of our investigative unit had put into the five-month investigation that aired last November; how we'd checked and double-checked and triple-checked our numbers, knowing full well the potential impact of our story. I knew when we said that 6,256 people who have served in the military had committed suicide in 2005 we had the goods to back it up – despite Dr. Katz's criticism. I knew when we said that, overall, suicide rates among veterans were double of those of the general population (per 100,000) and quadruple for those ages 20-24, we were on solid ground. I felt the very same way when last month we raised questions about how many veterans under VA care were attempting suicide.
Now, it turns out, thanks to a series of explosive emails unearthed as part of a California lawsuit by veterans rights groups against the VA, not only we were right on all counts but it appears Katz went out of his way to purposely cover up suicide data far in excess of what the agency had made public – data revealing an estimated 6,500 suicides a year among veterans and 12,000 suicide attempts.
"They do not want to come to grips with the reality, with the truth, and they are preventing us from helping these men and women," he told CBS News.
Maybe not anymore. Maybe not after a paper trail of denial and deceit – a disservice to all veterans and their families – has finally, rightfully been exposed.
In an e-mail late today Dr. Katz told CBS News the reason the numbers were not released was because of questions about the consistency and reliability of the findings and that there was no public cover up involved. Click here to view Dr. Katz's full response to CBS News.