Uncertainty About Military Suicides Frustrates Services

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 30, 2009 – The most frustrating part about suicide prevention is the uncertainty about what causes troops to take their lives, top military leaders said here yesterday.   This near-unanimous chorus was sounded on Capitol Hill when the second-ranking military officers of each service testified about military mental health before the House Armed Services Committee.   “The most frustrating thing is trying to find a cause,” said Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff.   The Army last week launched a study group comprising the military, National Institute of Mental Health, academia and other members in hopes of better understanding the underlying causes of suicide.   The largest study of behavioral health ever undertaken by the Army will examine behavioral health, psychological resilience, suicide risk, suicide-related behaviors and suicide deaths across the active and reserve components over all phases of a soldier’s career, Chiarelli said.   The $50 million study will present findings quarterly, with preliminary results due in November. Chiarelli said the findings could be incorporated in real time into treatment programs. The Army had a record number of suicides in 2007 with 115, and again in 2008 with 139.   “[The study group] realizes this is not business as usual. We’re not going to wait for the final results of the study,” the general said, referring to the project’s five-year timeline. “We feel that this could be huge — huge for the Army, the Department of Defense and quite frankly, for America.”



DoD to focus on health care access problems

By Karen Jowers – Staff writer
Posted : Friday Jul 24, 2009 10:48:42 EDT

Although defense health care does not fall within the purview of Tommy Thomas, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy, military families do.  So Thomas is looking into military families’ complaints about access to health care.  He plans to travel to Fort Drum, N.Y., and Fort Campbell, Ky., with representatives from the Tricare Management Activity to hear firsthand about that particular issue, said Arthur Myers, principal director of the military community and family policy office, in testimony Wednesday before the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee.  Myers noted that spouses testified in a Senate hearing earlier this year that they rated their health care as excellent, but access as poor.  “And what we’ve found out [is that] a lot of health professionals will not accept Tricare. So constantly we hear at Fort Campbell, these families have to travel to Nashville, an hour and a half, to get the care,” Myers said.  Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said that when he recently visited Fort Polk, La., a young woman who was 14 weeks pregnant said she had not yet been able to get an appointment with an obstetrician. “That’s atrocious,” Fleming said.  Families have complained about access to Tricare to some of the services’ senior enlisted advisors, who also testified at the hearing. “Soldiers and family members routinely list access to quality medical care as their biggest concern,” said Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth Preston.  “One of the major accessibility challenges to getting quality medical care is finding sufficient health care providers outside our military installations who accept Tricare payment,” said Preston, who testified earlier this year about problems with access.


Lawsuit Filed Over Contaminated Drinking Water At Camp Lejeune

By Chris Cowperthwaite, NBC17, 3 weeks, 3 days ago
Updated: Jul. 6 6:22 pm

RALEIGH, N.C. – A lawsuit filed this weekend alleges that hundreds of thousands of Marine Corps veterans and their families drank toxic water at Camp Lejeune, and the government knew it.  Jones v. United States of America is the first in a slew of lawsuits that attorneys plan on filing at the Federal Courthouse in Raleigh.  The suit says the government knew for at least five years that chemicals such as tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, dicloroethylene, vinyl chloride and benzene contaminated the water supply in high doses, but let the wells stay open.  Lawyers say the toxic water led to cancer and other health problems.  “These people are waiting for answers. They want to know why, for the first time in five generations, does everybody in their family have cancer?” said Joseph Anderson. “They want to know why they have rare cancers.”  The suit contends that if the military had followed its own regulations that had been in place since the 1950s, the contamination would not have happened.


House panel passes new GI Bill changes

By Rick Maze – Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Jul 22, 2009 15:28:01 EDT

A federal student aid bill was amended Tuesday by a House committee to increase Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for veterans in states that heavily subsidize tuition at public colleges, and to expand student loan forgiveness for National Guard and reserve members when they’re mobilized.  The GI Bill change, sponsored by Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., comes less than two weeks before the new veterans education benefits program will launch, and is unlikely to become law in time to influence benefits payments, which are set to begin as early as Aug. 3.  McKeon’s amendment, approved by the House Education and Labor Committee by voice vote, would help students attending institutions of higher learning in California, Massachusetts and other states where the tuition cap on benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill will be low because of how they are calculated.  Caps for each state are based on the highest tuition and highest fees charged at the in-state tuition rate for undergraduate education for a four-year public college or university. The cap is then used to determine the maximum payment for people attending private schools, or who are attending public schools but are either paying nonresident tuition or attending graduate school.  McKeon’s plan would create a special supplemental grant for veterans in states with low public-school tuition costs that would combine the cost of tuition and fees into a potentially larger single payment.http://www.militarytimes.com/news/2009/07/military_gibill_loanspayments_072209w/

Some seek mental health checks for spouses of multiple-deployed soldiers

By Seth Robson, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Sunday, July 5, 2009

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — While the Army has been working to gauge the mental health toll of multiple deployments on soldiers, some Army leaders and spouses say the service is moving too slowly to address similar effects on military family members.  Spouses face day-to-day pressure while soldiers are away and very little is being done for them at home, according to Rebecca Sinclair, the wife of 172nd Infantry Brigade commander Col. Jeff Sinclair.  “Are our spouses going to be OK? Not just healthwise — getting shot. Are they going to be the same person they were when [the soldier] left? After two or three deployments, there’s a chance they might not be,” she said.  The stresses on soldiers’ wives were highlighted by the recent suspected suicide of a 172nd spouse in Schweinfurt, according to Lt. Col. Eric Stetson, 172nd Infantry Brigade rear detachment commander. The Army investigation into that death is continuing.  “What exactly is the toll on our spouses from these repeated deployments?” Stetson asked. “The Army is putting a lot of energy into the impact of multiple deployments on soldiers. Maybe we need to have the same focus on the impact of multiple deployments on spouses and families.”  Some of the unit’s families are going through their third or fourth deployment, he said.  The brigade, which deployed twice to Iraq as the 2nd “Dagger” Brigade, is halfway through a yearlong mission south of Baghdad.  “The effects on soldiers of multiple deployments are compounding,” he said.  “The impact on spouses … it’s the same way. We are starting to see that more and more.”  And the war impacts military families living overseas more than those back home, Rebecca Sinclair said.  “In the States, you could make friends through your church or neighborhood,” she said. “If you have to, you can go to your mom’s or dad’s or a friend. Here it is much more difficult.”  Mental health issues have been pushed to the forefront after more than 140 soldiers committed suicide during 2008, up from 115 in 2007.


Should DoD Ban Tobacco?

7/6/2009 –


A new Institute of Medicine report (PDF) recommends that DoD gradually reduce (and eventually eliminate) the use of tobacco products to restore and maintain the optimal health and readiness of our nation’s service members.

From the report: 

·         One in five Americans uses tobacco, but more than 30 percent of active-duty military personnel and about 22 percent of veterans use tobacco.

 ·         Of greater concern, the rate of tobacco use in the military has increased since 1998, threatening to reverse the steady decline of the last several decades.
·         Smoking rates among military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan may be 50 percent higher than rates among nondeployed military personnel.
·         DoD spends more than $1.6 billion per year on tobacco-related medical care, increased hospitalizations, and lost days of work.
This begs the question:
Should the DoD ban the use of tobacco?

·         Can DoD ban tobacco?
·         Would a smoking ban lead to increased anxiety/stress among deployed troops?
·         What should be done to combat tobacco use?
·         How do outreach programs like Quit Tobacco, Make Everyone Proud fit in? 
Please keep in mind that this forum is available to debate DoD health policy and operational issues. Your comments will be passed along to MHS senior leaders for their consideration.

Suit filed over water at Camp Lejeune

Posted : Monday Jul 6, 2009 17:49:15 EDT

RALEIGH, N.C. — A woman developed cancer after three years of using contaminated water provided by the North Carolina military base where her husband was stationed, her lawyers said Monday.  A lawsuit filed against the federal government in U.S. District Court seeks an unspecified amount of damages for Laura Jones, 45, of Glenwood, Iowa, who has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  Jones lived at Camp Lejeune with her Marine husband from 1980 until May 1983. She didn’t attend a news conference about the lawsuit, which was filed Saturday, because of her physical condition, said attorney Joseph Anderson.  A government report earlier this month found tainted water at Camp Lejeune between the 1950s and 1985 can’t definitively be linked to health problems.  The study said the Marines and Navy shouldn’t wait for more scientific studies before deciding how to deal with health problems reported by former base residents. And it called into question the value of further studies.  Marine Corps spokesman 1st Lt. Brian Block said he couldn’t discuss the lawsuit.  “We are still supporting the ongoing studies to determine if there was a connection between adverse health and the water,” he said.  The 14-page complaint, filed along with numerous supporting documents, said Jones can’t work as a nurse because of pain.http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/07/ap_lejeune_water_lawsuit_070609/