House should adopt act to prevent veteran suicide

An epidemic of veteran suicide in America cuts across generations of men and women who have served their country. The death toll this year alone averages 22 veterans a day.

U.S. Senate Bill 2182, the Suicide Prevention for America's Veterans Act, was introduced late last month by U.S. Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., the first Iraq vet to serve in the Senate. Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray is a co-sponsor.

Having a U.S. House member from Washington state introduce the legislation in that chamber would merit high praise.

Having a Republican do it, in the GOP-controlled House, would speak volumes about the measure's legislative prospects.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and its founder Paul Rieckhoff developed and promoted the legislation.

Walsh introduced the legislation during IAVA's National Day of Action on March 27, when 1,892 American flags were placed on the National Mall, representing the averaged cumulative suicide toll in 2014 to that day.

Key among the legislation's efforts to improve access to mental-health care is language to extend special combat eligibility from five years to 15 years. IAVA reports, for a quarter of veterans, the mental traumas and invisible injuries of service do not appear for 10 to 12 years, long after free care for combat veterans expires. Then layers of priority rankings determine and delay access to care.

The legislation also seeks to ensure health-care providers are trained to identify veterans at risk of suicide, and that agencies provide seamless care from drug formularies to electronic records.

As a nation, we are quick to lavish praise on veterans. Gratitude and respect must be demonstrated with tangible support for their service-related physical and mental-health needs.

 

—The Seattle Times, April 21

 

Justice Dept. needs to explain drone kill rationale

A federal appeals court decision Monday may shed light on the rationale of the Obama administration in ordering drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen that killed four U.S. citizens without due process of law.

The federal government acknowledged last May that the CIA and the Defense Department carried out the 2011 attacks using unmanned aerial vehicles. At least one of the victims, Anwar al-Awlaki, was a senior al-Qaida leader. The other three, Samir Khan, Jude Kenan Mohammad and Abdul Rahman al-Awlaki (al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son), appear to have been unintended victims.

President Barack Obama has indicated that he personally is involved in the process by which the targets of drone attacks are chosen. Critics charge that condemning and executing U.S. citizens without benefit of trial is equivalent to murder or assassination.

The American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times used the Freedom of Information Act to try to obtain the government's legal rationale for authorizing the killings, which is apparently laid out in a memorandum prepared by the White House Office of Legal Counsel. The government resisted providing the information but, on Monday, a unanimous three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government had to make available a redacted version of the memo.

The Justice Department has the option to appeal the court's decision, but what it should do is make public as much of the memorandum as it can without compromising classified information.

This is a grave matter. The bulk of the argumentation - the justification for killing U.S. citizens without due process of law - needs to see the light of day. Americans understand and some agree that killings need to be done, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, in the war against those who would do lethal harm to the United States.

But killing American citizens is and will continue to be a unique need, if there is one, and the argument for it must be made clearly and publicly, as the court has ruled.

 

—The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 24