by Veterans for Common Sense
The claim that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a manual encouraging veterans to "commit suicide," made by Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, is an asinine assertion with no basis in fact.
Steele made the charge two days ago (August 25th) on FOX News. Steele’s egregious comments are an outrageous slander against VA designed to create an atmosphere of mistrust and fear among the millions of our veterans who rely on the VA for medical care. Veterans demand an apology from Steele and FOX News.
"Let me be absolutely clear, Steele lied. There is no VA manual encouraging veterans to commit suicide," said Paul Sullivan, the executive director of VCS, a non-profit based in Washington, DC providing advocacy for veterans, especially veterans with mental health conditions.
Here is the full text of Steele’s comments:
"If you want an example of bad public policy, let’s look at this situation with our veterans where you have a manual out there, telling our veterans stuff like, ‘Are you really a value to your community?’ and, you know, encouraging them to commit suicide. This is crazy coming from the government, and this is exactly what concerns people, what puts them in fear of what government controlled health care, of health care, will look like."
Source: Fox News, August 25, 2009:
In 2007, VCS worked closely with CBS Evening News investigators and uncovered the rising suicide epidemic among veterans, especially younger Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans. VCS encourages veterans who need mental health counseling to contact VA. VCS also supports VA’s new suicide prevention hotline established in 2007. In less than two years of operation, the hotline answered 150,000 calls from distraught veterans. The existence of the suicide prevention hotline contradicts Steele’s claims that VA promotes suicide. Source: CBS News, November 13, 2007.
The unconscionable comments by Steele on FOX News followed an attempt last Sunday by FOX News to selectively edit government documents in an effort to attack VA. According to Media Matters:
"On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace repeatedly cropped quotes from a Veterans Health Administration (VHA) document to falsely suggest that the Obama administration is pressuring veterans to end their lives prematurely and to accuse Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth of lying about it. In fact, contrary to Wallace’s false assertions, the document he referred to does not require doctors to direct veterans to what conservatives have labeled the ‘Death Book for Veterans.
Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) was formed in August 2002 as a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization by war veterans who believe that we, the people of the United States of America, are most secure when our country is free, strong, and responsibly engaged with the world. Our mission, based on the pragmatic ideals of the American patriot Thomas Paine, is to raise the unique and powerful voices of veterans so that our military, veterans, freedom, and national security are protected and enhanced, for ourselves and for future generations.