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House Veterans' Affairs Comm. hears Veteran parents pleas for help

By M&C US News Dec 13, 2007, 22:52 GMT

House Veterans' Affairs Comm. hears Veteran parents pleas for help

Kim Bowman (L) comforts Mike Bowman (R) as he receives a standing ovation after his moving opening statement before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing on "Stopping Suicides: Mental Health Challenges Within the Department of Veterans Affairs" on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. USA 12 December 2007. The Bowmans are the parents of U.S. Army Illinois National Guard Specialist Tim Bowman who committed suicide after returning from combat in Iraq. EPA/SHAWN THEW

Parents of veterans seeking mental health counseling and help converged in Washington DC this morning to ask congress for more help.

CNN reports more than 100,000 of the 750,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have sought treatment for mental problems from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Dr. Ira Katz, the VA's deputy chief of patient care, told members of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee that the department's suicide hotline has received more than 6,000 calls from veterans or their families since it was established in July.

"In terms of their suffering and need for effective treatment, the number of returning veterans with mental health issues is very significant, but our department is able to meet their needs," Dr. Ira Katz, the VA's deputy chief of patient care, tells members of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.

Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., disagreed with that assessment, saying the agency is "ignoring the whole problem." Lawmakers heard from another witness who said younger veterans without a service-connected disability are the most likely to kill themselves.

Veteran Tim Bowman, an Iraq veteran, committed suicide in November 2005 after serving with a National Guard unit that patrolled the dangerous road that links Baghdad to the airport.

His father Mike Bowman told the panel: "Our son was just one of thousands of veterans that this country has lost to suicide.  I see every day the pain and grief that our family and extended family goes through in trying to deal with this loss.  Every one of those at risk veterans also has a family that will suffer if that soldier finds the only way to take the battlefield pain away is by taking his or her own life.  Their ravished and broken spirits are then passed on to their families as they try to justify what has happened.  I now suffer from the same mental illnesses that claimed my sonís life, PTSD, from the images and sounds of finding him and hearing his life fade away, and depression from a loss that I would not wish on anyone."

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