"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

White House, Pentagon Shift Policy On Condolences Letters Sent To Families Of Soldiers Who Commit Suicide In Combat

In Uncategorized on July 6, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Oldspeak:“Well done President Obama. Recognizing that death resulting from psychological injuries is just as valid  as death resulting from physical injuries is a big step forward in beginning to substantively deal with the usually undiagnosed but no less devastating psychological injuries often suffered by soldiers in combat. Now if more resources could be devoted to mental health and fitness by the U.S. Military, and changing the deeply entrenched disdain for mental health care in military culture, perhaps fewer soldiers would come back home more broken in ways not easily fixed. Obama, Bring ALL our troops home.

By Julian E. Barnes @ The Wall Street Journal:

Families of military service members who commit suicide while deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan will now receive condolence letters from President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, reversing a long standing policy, officials said Wednesday.

“The administration will now send letters to families of service members who commit suicide while deployed to Operation New Dawn, Operation Enduring Freedom and other combat operations,” said Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan.

The shift comes after lawmakers pressed the White House to consider changing its policy. The Obama administration made the decision to reverse the policy after a year long review, Col. Lapan said.

“It is an administration policy but the department of Defense will follow that same policy,” Col. Lapan said.

He also said that condolence letters  won’t be sent to families of service members and veterans who commit suicide after a deployment. Less than a quarter of Army suicides take place in a combat zone, with the majority occurring when units are not deployed.

In a statement, Mr. Obama said he did not make the change in policy lightly.

“This issue is emotional, painful, and complicated, but these Americans served our nation bravely.  They didn’t die because they were weak,” he said.

“And the fact that they didn’t get the help they needed must change.”

Mr. Obama said that since taking office, he has been working on “removing the stigma associated with the unseen wounds of war” and expanding the budget for mental health services.

“Our men and women in uniform have borne the incredible burden of our wars, and we need to do everything in our power to honor their service, and to help them stay strong for themselves, for their families and for our nation,” he said in the statement.

The statement follows:

As Commander in Chief, I am deeply grateful for the service of all our men and women in uniform, and grieve for the loss of those who suffer from the wounds of war – seen and unseen.  Since taking office, I’ve been committed to removing the stigma associated with the unseen wounds of war, which is why I’ve worked to expand our mental health budgets, and ensure that all our men and women in uniform receive the care they need.

As a next step and in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the military chain of command, I have also decided to reverse a long-standing policy of not sending condolence letters to the families of service members who commit suicide while deployed to a combat zone. This decision was made after a difficult and exhaustive review of the former policy, and I did not make it lightly.  This issue is emotional, painful, and complicated, but these Americans served our nation bravely.  They didn’t die because they were weak.  And the fact that they didn’t get the help they needed must change.  Our men and women in uniform have borne the incredible burden of our wars, and we need to do everything in our power to honor their service, and to help them stay strong for themselves, for their families and for our nation.

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