This month Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced the addition of some 1,900 mental health nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers to its existing workforce of 20,590 mental health staff in attempt to get a handle on the epidemic of suicides among combat veterans. Unfortunately, when presidents misuse our military on an unprecedented scale – and Congress lets them get away with it – the resulting stress causes military suicides to increase dramatically, both among active duty and retired service members. In fact, military deaths from suicide far outnumber combat deaths. According to an article in the Air Force Times this month, suicides among airmen are up 40 percent over last year.
Considering the multiple deployments service members are forced to endure as the war in Afghanistan stretches into its second decade, these figures are sadly unsurprising.
Ironically, the same VA Secretary Eric Shinseki was forced to retire from the Army by President Bush for daring to suggest that an invasion and occupation of Iraq would not be the cakewalk that neoconservatives promised. Then Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who is not a military veteran, claimed that General Shinseki was "wildly off the mark" for suggesting that several hundred thousand soldiers would be required to secure post-invasion Iraq. Now we see who was right on the costs of war.