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"Shhh!" began a Feb. 13, 2008, email from Dr. Ira Katz, a VA deputy chief. "Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 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?"
Katz wrote in another email that 18 veterans kill themselves daily, on average.
After the trial another email surfaced that was written by VA psychologist Norma Perez suggesting that counselors in Texas make a point to diagnose fewer post-traumatic stress disorder cases. The veterans' lawyers argued that email showed the VA's unwillingness to properly treat mental health issues.
More recently, federal investigators reported last month that nearly half of the veterans who seek mental health care for the first time waited about 50 days before receiving a full evaluation, far short of the 14 days that the VA said 95 percent of new patients seeking mental health treatment get a full evaluation.
Since 2007, the VA has experienced a 35 percent increase in the number of veterans receiving mental health services. The department says it's made strides in part by developing a more extensive suicide prevention program and by increasing the number of counseling centers.
VA officials told a Senate Veterans Affairs committee that they've invested heavily in mental health care over the past few years.
The VA said last week it was increasing its mental health staff by about 1,900 workers to existing mental health staff of roughly 20,590.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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