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Friday, January 05, 2007

Incoming House Veterans Affairs Chair on PTSD

With Democrats gaining control of Congress officially as of yesterday, new leaders have begun settling into the various committee chairs. In the House, Rep. Bob Filner [D-Calif.] takes over leadership of the Veterans Affairs Committee.


Filner as chairman is particularly interested in addressing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among returning veterans. He said “several hundred” veterans of the Iraq war have committed suicide. Asked if that figure was based on VA statistics, he said, “We’re having trouble getting the suicide stuff. [VA officials] just don’t want to even admit this is going on. I have seen differing figures but it looks to me like there have been several hundred. And…98 percent of them could have been prevented if people had recognized the situation.”

For example, Filner said, he heard from a female Army captain whose husband, also in service, “exhibited all the classic signs” of PTSD when he returned from Iraq. Yet he killed himself before his illness was diagnosed. “They didn’t know what it was. They went through marriage counseling, and nobody said, ‘How about PTSD?’ ” As chairman, Filner said, “we want to stress mental health. ...

A VA spokesman said the department is not ignoring suicides among returning war veterans. In fact it is conducting a scientific study of all causes of death in that population. Dr. Ira R. Katz, who leads the study, said in a June 2006 paper on suicide prevention that veterans of current wars might face greater risks of suicide. One factor is the higher incidence of head trauma and brain injury from roadside bombs.

Although the information can be difficult to come by, ePluribus Media and I continue to try to piece together the stateside post-deployment situation of our returning troops by collecting and preserving reported incidents of violence or suicide which may turn out to be related to combat PTSD. These incidents are presented online in the PTSD Timeline.

If you have an incident you would like to report, please email

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