WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, issued the following statement today on the DOD/VA effort to address the rise in soldier suicides. The DOD/VA Senior Oversight Committee (SOC), co-chaired by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, met on Tuesday to discuss this issue. Two weeks ago, Chairman Akaka and Ranking Member Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) requested that the DOD and VA Secretaries meet to discuss the alarming rise in active duty suicides.
"The rise in active duty suicides is one piece of a larger mental health crisis faced by service members and veterans. Healing and mitigating the invisible wounds of war among active duty and veterans is both a matter of sacred obligation and strong national defense. I appreciate Secretary Gates' and Secretary Shinseki's mutual commitment to address this issue. I trust this is only the beginning of their collaboration for the sake of America's servicemembers, veterans, and their families," said Akaka.
In his letter addressed to both Secretary Gates and Secretary Shinseki, Chairman Akaka asked the SOC to move immediately to determine whether deficiencies existed in the way potential military personnel are screened, or in the diagnosis or treatment of active duty servicemembers who are suffering from psychological problems.
February 26, 2009