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May 23, 2008

Sometimes in the rush to begin the summer with beachwear and barbecues we forget what Memorial Day is really all about — a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. It's also a time to remember those veterans around us. Take the weekend to use the Oral History Instructions provided by the National Archive and talk to a vet. Their story will be held in the National Archive Veterans Project.

Memorial Day is also a day to remember those currently in service and to support all vets and their families. Below you'll find some recent press coverage of the problems facing returning Iraq veterans, resources for vets and their families, and JOURNAL coverage of veterans stories and issues.

BILL MOYERS: We honor our war dead this Memorial Day weekend. The greatest respect we could pay them would be to pledge no more wars for erroneous and misleading reasons; no more killing and wounding except for the defense of our country and our freedoms. We could also honor our dead by caring for the living, and do better at it than we are right now…

You may have followed the flurry of allegations concerning neglect, malpractice, and corner cutting at the Veterans Administration, especially for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - PTSD - or major depression, brought on by combat.

The Rand Corporation has released a study indicating that approximately 300,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD - or major depression, that's one of every five soldiers who have served over there.

Last Friday's WASHINGTON POST reported an e-mail sent to staff at a VA hospital in Temple, Texas, by a psychologist who wrote: "given that we are having more and more compensation seeking veterans, I'd like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out."

Now, PTSD is not a diagnosis arrived at without careful, thorough examination. But to possibly misdiagnose such a volatile and harmful disorder for the sake of saving time or money is reprehensible.

The VA's director - James Peake - immediately said the psychologist's statement had been "repudiated at the highest level." There's plenty of other evidence to raise concern.

The rate of attempted or successful soldier suicides is so scary the head of the VA's mental health division wondered in a February e-mail how it should be spun. "Shhhh," he wrote. "Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1000 suicide attempts per month among the veterans we see in our medical facilities. Is this something we should carefully address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?"

REP. BOB FILNER: The hearing today is entitled "The Truth About Veteran Suicides."

BILL MOYERS: This apparent cover-up prompted the House Veterans Committee to raise the question of criminal negligence.

REP. BOB FILNER: If we do not admit, if we do not assume, if we do not know what the problem is, then the problem will continue and people die. If that's not criminal negligence I don't know what is.

BILL MOYERS: You can glimpse what's going on here by reading a front page story in last Sunday's HOUSTON CHRONICLE - published now on our site at - about just one of the suicides. Bronze star recipient Nils Aron Andersson of the 82nd Airborne division… an army recruiter, served two tours of duty in Iraq before he sat behind the wheel of his new pick-up - within 24 hours of his wedding - and fired a single round from a .22 caliber semi-automatic into his right temple. He was 25 years old.

Only about half of those service members diagnosed with PTSD or major depression have sought treatment and about half of those received what the Rand study describes as "minimally adequate treatment." Let me repeat that: "minimally adequate treatment," for what could be a matter of life or death.

Once upon a time kids asked their fathers, "What did you do in the war, daddy?" It's a question the next generation could ask all of us, who stood by as our government invaded Iraq to start a war whose purpose and rationale keep shifting and whose end is nowhere in sight, and who look now with nonchalance upon the unseen scars of those who are fighting it.

That's it for THE JOURNAL. We'll be back next week.

I'm Bill Moyers.

Published on May 23, 2008.

Related Media:
Iraqi refugeesD-DAY REVISITED
This special edition of BILL MOYERS JOURNAL features D-Day veterans in the poignant "D-Day Revisited," which explores the sometimes painful memories of their wartime experiences.

Maxine Hong Kingston, photo by Robin HollandMaxine Hong Kingston
Bill Moyers sits down with Chinese-American author Maxine Hong Kingston to discuss poetry, war and the transformative power of stories.

Read excerpts of writings collected from Maxine Hong Kingston's workshops with veterans and their families.

Iraqi refugeesBODY OF WAR
Enter the story of Iraq war veteran Tomas Young who was shot and paralyzed less than a week into his tour of duty. Three years in the making, BODY OF WAR tells the poignant tale of the young man's journey from joining the service after 9/11 to fight in Afghanistan, to living with devastating wounds after being deployed to Iraq instead.

The Cost of War: A Bill Moyers Essay
How do you make tangible the true costs of the Iraq war? With photos from Nina Berman's book PURPLE HEARTS.

OLori Grinker aboard the U.S.S. Comfort
Photojournalist Lori Grinker documents the activity of a hospital ship in the Persian Gulf.

References and Reading:
Veterans Issues in the Press

Questions about the services received by veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan burst onto the national stage in 2007 with public hearings over the treatment of patients at the Army's Walter Reed facility. The investigations by press and Congress resulted in the resignation of several officials — and renewed attention to the plight of veterans around the country. As the war entered its fifth year in late March 2008, CNN ran a special story about military sexual trauma among women veterans. NPR investigated veterans disability paperwork. And, the ARMY TIMES' anniversary coverage included "Vets still struggle with medical systems."
Government Resources

Veterans Benefits Administration
The Veterans Benefits Administration, in partnership with the Veterans Health Administration and the National Cemetery Administration, provides benefits and services to veterans and their families in recognition of their service. The Web site provides information about compensation and benefits and provides online applications for those who are eligible.

U.S. Department of Defense
The Defense Department is a comprehensive source for current news on the U.S. Armed Services and provides resources for the families of service members.

House Committee on Veterans' Affairs
The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs reviews veterans' programs, examines current laws, and reports bills and amendments to strengthen existing laws concerning veterans and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), such as for health care, disability compensation, GI bill education and job training, home loan guarantees, life insurance policies, and a nationwide system of veterans' cemeteries. Check this site for the latest information on new federal initiatives on veterans' matters.

National Center for PTSD
The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was created within the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1989, in response to a Congressional mandate to address the needs of veterans with military-related PTSD. Its mission was, and remains: To advance the clinical care and social welfare of America's veterans through research, education, and training in the science, diagnosis, and treatment of PTSD and stress-related disorders. The Web site provides educational resources concerning PTSD and other enduring consequences of traumatic stress.

Veterans History Project
A Project of the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. The Project relies on volunteers to collect and preserve stories of wartime service. Search the enormous veterans collection by name, service location, rank, medals, or learn how to add your story or your family member's story to the permanent collection. Audio and video material submissions are encouraged. More on how to contribute to this oral history project.

Non-Government Resources

National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
Founded in 1990 by a group of community-based homeless veteran service providers, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) seeks to eliminate homelessness in the veteran community, serving as a liaison between branches of the federal government and community-based homeless veteran service providers.

New Directions
An estimated 27,000 homeless veterans live in Los Angeles, possibly due to the country's largest VA hospital and the mild climate. Many suffer from drug and alcohol abuse. Some suffer from both substance abuse and mental illness. New Directions, Inc., a long-term drug and alcohol treatment program, provides food, shelter and rehabilitation to homeless veterans at four locations.

Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)
The VFW is the oldest nonprofit veterans service organization, serving as a voice for veterans and a catalyst for change in improving veterans' benefits through community service programs and special projects.

Returning Veterans Resource Project
"Returning Veterans Resource Project NW is a nonprofit organization comprised of politically unaffiliated and independent mental health professionals who offer free and confidential counseling to veterans and their families of past and current Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns." Provides direct assistance in finding therapists specifically trained to talk with veterans.

Society of Military Widows
"THE SOCIETY OF MILITARY WIDOWS (SMW) was founded in 1968 by Theresa (Tess) Alexander to serve the interests of women whose husbands died while on active military duty, of a service-connected illness, or during disability or regular retirement from the armed forces. SMW is a nonprofit organization chartered in the State of California under section 504 (c) (4) of the Internal Revenue Service Code." On their Web site, find information about rights and benefits for military survivors.

FRONTLINE: The Soldier's Heart
Web site for the FRONTLINE documentary about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and returning Iraq War veterans. The site includes extensive interviews with military and medical experts, a literary history of combat stress and other readings, a reporter's diary and other resources. You can watch the entire episode online.

Remembering Vietnam: An Online Newshour Special Report
This special report commemorates the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War with links to Online Newshour articles and interviews about Vietnam.

Veterans Resource Map
Find Veteran resources for all fifty states, compiled by NOW with Bill Moyers in 2002.
Also This Week:

There may be a potentially dangerous chemical leaching into our food from the containers that we use every day. THE JOURNAL and EXPOSÉ examine why, even though studies show that the chemical Bisphenol A can cause cancer and other health problems in lab animals, the manufacturers, their lobbyists, and U.S. regulators say it’s safe.

A Bill Moyers essay on the administration's record of resignations.

Jeffrey Toobin, one of the most recognized legal journalists in the country, discusses what the Supreme Court might look after the 2008 election. Plus, online tools to help you become a court-watcher.

Bill Moyers on honoring our veterans this Memorial Day. Plus, resources for veterans and families and how to do an oral history of a veteran in your life — to join the collection in the National Archives.

Find out how to do an oral history of a veteran for inclusion the National Archives.

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