Recognize Military (Active & Veteran) Suicide As Service-Connected
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When our nation's Service Members and Veterans took the oath to protect our country from all dangers, foreign and domestic, most were aware of the potential hazards of service...but not its ancillary cost. According to the Veterans Administration, the lives of an average of 20 Veterans are lost every day due to suicide, equating to more than 7,400 deaths in 2014. The "invisible wounds" of military service have been well-documented, to include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Moral Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Since the correlation between suicide and service has been well-documented, the Veterans Administration should properly designate Veteran suicide as service-connected.
On Memorial Day, as we honor fallen Warriors lost on the field of battle, I also mourn the first year without my baby brother, former Army Specialist Aaron O. Weiss, who committed suicide on May 23, 2016. His passing remains unbearable. Aaron served honorably as a Communications Specialist, deploying several times while attached to the XVIII Airborne Corps. He was an extremely caring, beautiful soul, loved by his family, fellow Soldiers and friends. He was only 34. No other family should experience this pain...yet they do...every single day.
Although Veterans no longer wear the uniform, they continue to experience burdens associated with their prior service. Increased services are needed to meet the needs of America's Veterans, who comprise less than 1% our population. Veterans are often impacted by issues such as homelessness, unemployment, underemployment (often exacerbated by not pursuing degrees or certifications while serving), financial strife, depression, and alcohol or drug abuse, just to name a few. These issues and countless others increase the risk of suicide.
Clearly, our Veterans carry society's disproportionately packed rucksack, creating a heavy burden. Since these issues related to military service, the subsequent Veteran loss should be viewed as service-connected, a causation of wearing the uniform. By doing so, we can garner the support necessary to proactively address the issue with the visibility and respect it deserves. Most importantly, increased awareness can reduce additional losses.
Veterans and Service Members who died on a field of battle or by their own hand both succumbed to an enemy…the latter was simply a delayed response. Veterans may no longer wear the uniform, but many continue to fight. Should a Veteran or Service Member succumb to suicide, their deaths should be considered service-connected as rightfully earned by their faithfulness to this country. No Veteran death should be associated with stigma or shame, only the honor due their service and sacrifice.
I am a proud big sister who loves and misses her brothers, both gone much too soon due to preventable reasons. Behavioral health matters. Given the insidious nature of Veteran suicide, Veteran support and the support of their families is critical. The demands placed on America's Warriors are staggering. As such, increased awareness and efforts are necessary to fight this battle. Please join our fight by signing and forwarding this petition!
Not all wounds are visible, nor all deaths immediate. Silence will not end the scourge of Veteran suicide, nor will looking away. Our united support, starting with this petition, will help us protect and serve those who fought to served our country and the families who love them. Thank you for your support!
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