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National Suicide Prevention Week Focuses on Iraq War Vets

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 By Eric Mack/Craig Eicher, Contact
September 8, 2008

The U.S. is losing 18 soldiers a day - on a different battleground than those in Iraq or Afghanistan. This is "National Suicide Prevention Week," and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says 18 people who have served the country take their lives every day. A study of male veterans shows their suicide rate is twice that of the general public.

Chad Lego is an Iraq War veteran and logistics coordinator for the Circle of Friends for American Veterans. His advocacy group is proposing a "Veterans' Bill of Rights" to help address mental health issues.

"Making sure there are available resources for soldiers coming back - sailors, airmen, Marines - to have the available resources and professionals to help them."

The plan includes making mental health counseling available at every Veteran's Center, Lego explains, and boosting funding to facilities that help homeless war vets. He says the rate of homelessness among Iraq War vets is particularly high; and that being homeless not only contributes to mental health issues, but is sometimes the result of mental health challenges.

Getting homeless veterans back on their feet, both financially and emotionally, will take a bigger investment in the support amounts paid directly to them, adds Lego - which also is part of the proposal.

"The Veterans' Bill of Rights calls for the per diem to double, from $30 to $60 per day, to two-tenths of one percent of the Veterans' Administration budget.

The Circle of Friends for American Veterans was at both national political conventions and has pitched its plan to both John McCain and Barack Obama, who have said they will expand care for veterans.

A national suicide prevention hotline for veterans has also recently been publicized, at 1-800-273-TALK. Additional information about the group and its proposal is online, at www.vetsvision.org.

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