Senators Blast Bush Administration Cover Up In VA

Two Democratic senators demanded the resignation of the chief mental health official of the Veterans Affrairs Department saying he tried to cover up the rising number of veterans suicides. Senators Daniel Akaka and Patty Murray, said Dr. Ira Katz had withheld important information on the true suicide risk factor among veterans. “Dr. Katz’s irresponsible actions have been a disservice to our veterans, and it is time for him to go,” said Murray. “The No.1 priority of the VA should be caring for our veterans, not covering up the truth.” Senator Akaka sent a leter to the VA insisting the situation “would be best served by his(Katz) resignation.”

E-mails were recently uncovered showing that Katz and other VA officials tried to conceal the number of suicide by veterans. An e-mail from Katz, disclosed this week as part of a lawsuit that went to trial in San Francisco, starts with “Shh” and claims that 12,000 veterans a year attempt suicide while under department treatment. “Is this something we should(carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before somone stumbles on it” asked the e-mail.

Murray is working with other senators on legislation demanding the VA should more carefully track what is happening to veterans regardng suicide attempts. The bill would require the VA within 180 days to report the number of veterans who have died by suicie since Jan. 1, 1997 and issue yearly reports about this issue.