Films Remember Vets Who Die From Suicide

Recently, the Military Times wrote about The GI Film Festival that hosted two films in Fairfax, Virginia, on Memorial Day weekend.  The two films honored those who have died from self-inflicted wounds or whose lives are at risk because of Post-Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The films from last Saturday were inspired by the high suicide rate among veterans, with roughly 22 returning veterans taking their own lives each day, according to a February 2013 Veterans Affairs Department report.

The first movie, titled SAM, was an artistic film that looks at veteran suicide through the life of a young man returning from service in Afghanistan to find nothing has changed except himself, writes The Military Times.

The film is based on a short story by Juan Garcia and directed by Alexis Garcia Rocca, and seeks to raise awareness about the debilitating and sometimes deadly effects of PTSD.

“It was to put a face to the statistic, because a lot of people don’t have a military connection,” Garcia Rocca said. “I come from a military family, and that’s what brought me to the issue, and this was kind of made for everyone else — to be made aware that this exists.”

The second film was Project 22, which follows two wounded veterans – Scott Hansen and Doc King – on a 6,500-mile motorcycle ride to raise awareness about veteran suicide.

They reveal their own story of struggle and recovery as they meet with advocates, program directors and researchers along the way. Many veterans they speak to open up about their struggles and the painful reality of life with PTSD and even suicide attempts.

“I always feel like I gave a piece of my soul – that’s one way to put it. You come home different – mentally, physically, yeah – but I felt like I left part of my soul in Iraq,” says Ahmed Uddin, one of the veterans interviewed in the documentary.

“This country is absolutely not doing enough for these guys when they come back,” said audience member Beaux Watson, according to The Military Times.

(Updated article)

Obama Signs Suicide Prevention Bill For Veterans

Amidst partisanship over health care in the U.S., one issue received support from both parties, according to U.S. News and World Report: curbing suicides among American veterans.

The issue was not mentioned in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, but it became clear early this year that both Democrats and Republicans would rally around it.

The Senate voted 99-0 to pass the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act on Feb. 3, while the House voted 403-0 in favor of it last month. Obama signed the bill on Thursday.

The bill is named after a Marine Corps veteran who killed himself in 2011 after he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder following deployments to Iraq and in Afghanistan.

Last December, Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, single-handedly stalled the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act in the Senate, saying that it carries too hefty a price tag and the VA could already handle it.

Veterans groups said the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act , which would require a report on successful veteran suicide prevention programs and allow the VA to pay incentives to hire psychiatrists, is desperately needed.

MSNBC: Ed Schultz And Montel Williams On Veteran Suicide Prevention Bill


For the second time in five weeks, House lawmakers unanimously passed veterans mental health legislation designed to launch new community outreach efforts and recruit more psychiatrists to slow the nation’s estimated 22 veterans suicides each day.

And, for the second time in five weeks, supporters will have to wait and see when — or if — the Senate will move ahead on the measure.

House lawmakers called passage of the bill a critical need for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which estimates as many as 22 veterans a day commit suicide.

“Since we last passed this bill … 750 veterans have taken their lives,” said bill sponsor Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn. “We cannot wait another day. We cannot pass this problem forward.”

Last December, Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, single-handedly stalled a bill in the Senate, saying that it carries too hefty a price tag for authority that the Veterans Affairs Department could, in most cases, already exercise.  Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, tried to pass the bill by unanimous consent, but Mr. Coburn objected.

Veterans groups say the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act , which would require a report on successful veteran suicide prevention programs and allow the VA to pay incentives to hire psychiatrists, is desperately needed and must pass.

Last December, Mr. Coburn, who is retiring from the Senate, said the bill wouldn’t accomplish much new.

“I object, not because I don’t want to save suicides, but because I don’t think this bill will do the first thing to change what’s happening,” said Coburn.

Paul Rieckhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said the that despite his reputation as a budget hawk, Mr. Coburn should have recognized that the $22 million cost of the bill is worth the lives it would have saved.

Republican Senator Blocks Veterans’ Suicide Prevention Bill

Republican Senator Tom Coburn has blocked the Veterans’ Suicide prevention bill…

RSN states that Coburn said that preventing future veteran suicides would be “throwing money away” and he singlehandedly blocked $22 million aimed at addressing the veteran suicide crisis.


“The $22 million cost of the bill pales in comparison to the $770 billion cost of the Afghanistan war, or the $818 billion cost of the Iraq war, both of which Coburn repeatedly voted for. Both of those wars are costing the American people $10.5 million every hour, yet Coburn is making noise about a price tag that amounts to two hours of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The Hill states:

“Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) blocked the Senate from passing a veterans’ suicide prevention bill.

“Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who will serve as ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee next year, asked for unanimous consent to pass H.R. 5059, the Clay Hunt SAV Act.”

Coburn was the only dissenting voice.

Sam Seder video.


Colorado: Free Marijuana For Vets?

Veterans in Colorado can now add free marijuana to their list of service benefits. The organization Grow4Vets, a Denver-based nonprofit that provides “alternative” treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injury, is having a pot giveaway Saturday in Denver.

Veterans who signed up before noon Friday will receive more than $200 worth of cannabis products, according to the company’s website. Those who miss the RSVP deadline can pay $20 at the door in exchange for $100 worth of weed.

“Operation Grow4Vets events put cannabis in the hands of veterans who need it most,” the organization’s founder and executive director Roger Martin told ABC7 News Denver. “Our events are open to the public to help grow visibility for our cause.”

The organization’s objective is more noble than simply introducing veterans to a better high – its mission, the founders say, is to reduce the “staggering” number of vets in the U.S. who die from suicide and prescription drug overdose.

Every day in the U.S., 22 veterans commit suicide, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs. The suicide rate for veterans is twice as much as the civilian rate, a sobering statistic that underscores the need to better treat veteran PTSD.

While the country moves forward with marijuana legalization, the VA cannot recommend medical weed to veterans. However, vets can take advantage of medical marijuana programs in states where medical weed is legal, but only if they do not disclose their marijuana use to the VA. Telling the VA could mean losing their prescription narcotic painkillers, according to USA Today.

But legalizing weed does not mean that a state has become entirely weed friendly. The marijuana industry in Colorado has started a campaign to de-stigmatize marijuana use after industry leaders perceived some unfriendly criticism.

The campaign is aimed at promoting moderate and safe consumption of marijuana products and educating the public about what they see as misinformation about pot. “So far, every campaign designed to educate the public about marijuana has relied on fear-mongering and insulting marijuana users,” Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s biggest pot-policy advocacy group, told CBS Denver.