Vet Suicides May Exceed Battlefield Deaths

Veterans Affairs Chairman Bob Filner, D-Calif
CBS News producer Laura Strickler wrote this for
On Capitol Hill this morning, lawmakers blasted Veterans Affairs officials for hiding the true number of suicides and suicide attempts by veterans. Internal agency emails and other data obtained by CBS News exposed.

"What we see is a pattern, a pattern to deny, deny, deny," said Veterans Affairs Chairman Bob Filner, D-Calif.

Yesterday a top psychiatric official from the National Institute of Mental Health said that the total number of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who will commit suicide could exceed those who are killed on the battlefield. "It's quite possible that the suicides and psychiatric mortality of this war could trump the combat deaths," said Dr. Thomas Insel of the National Institute of Mental Health according to Bloomberg News. Insel addressed reporters at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. He said a lack of resources at the community level could cripple efforts to adequately meet the needs of returning soldiers.

In an interview with CBS News last week, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash, a senior member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said one of the main obstacles to treating soldiers' mental health needs is the stigma attached to treatment. She said she would be "ecstatic" if President Bush joined VA Secretary James Peake and General David Petraeus, Commander Multinational Force-Iraq in passionately addressing the issue. "Can you imagine if you were a veteran at home and you saw those three men say that, what a difference that would make?" Murray asked.

By Laura Strickler