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Location: Gualala, California, United States

Alice and I love our life on the Northern California coast and welcome friends and family to enjoy it with us.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Veteran Suicides

Editor, The San Francisco Chronicle

I sent a letter to the Chronicle Editor April 22, 2008 about errors in a Chronicle story about a lawsuit by veterans advocates. More recent Chronicle news stories on the trial are bringing out that plaintiffs' lawyer Arturo Gonzalez does not understand that the Veterans Administration suicide numbers are for all 26 million veterans, not just the 1.7 million Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans (whose 144 suicides over a four-year period produce a very low suicide rate of 2 per 100,000 per year, less than one-quarter of the general population rate). I don't understand how Gonzalez's ignorance of such a basic fact could prevent the judge from throwing this case out immediately.

As a minimum the Chronicle should correct its previous reporting on this issue and set the record straight.

(Below is my previous letter you ignored)

Editor (The San Francisco Chronicle)

“More than 120 veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq commit suicide every week,” according to veterans advocates, began a San Francisco Chronicle front-page story: VA stalls on care while 18 veterans a day commit suicide, judge is told, by Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer, Tuesday, April 22, 2008.

That’s terrible. Terrible journalism, that is. The rate of 18 veterans a day committing suicide is for all veterans, not just veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. For comparison purposes, the acknowledged VA veteran suicide rate is 19 per 100,000 per year, which is about the same or lower than the suicide rates for both sexes in entire countries: Japan, Belgium, Finland, Cuba, France, Austria, Korea, and Switzerland. In US male veterans to all males comparisons, which is the closest I could get to “apples to apples,” the entire male populations of over forty nations have higher or similar suicide rates than our veterans (the rate for all American males is 17.9).

Our active duty military suicide rate is 11 per 100,000 per year, about half our civilian rate for same-age males. From an analysis of suicide statistics, it actually shows it is safer from a suicide perspective to be a veteran or serving on active military duty.

True, but you’ll never see that in a Chronicle headline on the front page.


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