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August 27, 2014

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House committee targets VA on suicides

WASHINTON — The VA came under attack today at the House Veterans Affairs Committee following a recent CBS News report that 1,000 veterans a month are attempting suicide — a much higher number than previously disclosed by the Veterans Administration.

The Democratic committee chairman suggested “criminal negligence” at the VA for denying the extent of the problem and asked VA Secretary James B. McPeake if he would consider resignations of subordinates may be in order.

Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley, who serves on the committee, passed on her time at the microphone so questioning could begin, but submitted comments for the record on what she called the VA’s “cover-up.”

"I find it absolutely appalling that anyone would try to conceal these numbers – preventing us from addressing the root of the issue of suicide among veterans," Berkley wrote.

Berkley drew on the case of Nevada Army Army Pfc. Travis Virgadamo who killed himself while on active duty in Iraq. Virgadamo had told his family while at home on leave he was suffering mentally and had sought counseling.

“The Army’s response was to treat him with Prozac,’’ Berkley wrote. "This incident only reinforces the fact that we need to place more emphasis on mental health of servicemembers in or returning from combat.”

Check here to read Virgadamo’s story. And here if you want to review testimony from the hearing.

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