WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Justice Department is siding with a legal argument by a fired Department of Veterans Affairs official at the center of a nationwide scandal over long wait times for veterans seeking medical care and secret lists covering up the delays. Sharon Helman, the former director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, is suing the VA to win back her old job. Helman argues in court papers that a key portion of a 2014 law passed in response to the wait-time scandal is unconstitutional and denies her an important step to appeal her firing. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a letter to Congress that the Justice Department has decided not to contest that element of Helman's challenge, essentially agreeing with her legal position. Still, the Justice Department will continue fighting against Helman's reinstatement, Lynch said. "I note that the scope of this decision is narrow" and the Justice Department "will continue to defend the vast bulk of the statute," Lynch wrote this week to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. Helman is serving two years' probation for failing to disclose more than $19,000 in gifts she received while supervising the Phoenix hospital where whistleblowers revealed veterans on secret waiting lists faced scheduling delays of up to a year. As many as 40 veterans died while awaiting care at the hospital, according to an investigation by the VA's office of inspector general. McCarthy and other Republicans reacted with outrage, saying the attorney general's failure to defend the 2014 law could make it easier for Helman - a convicted felon - to get back her job. "When Congress passed the Veterans Choice Act, a key provision allowed for incompetent and indifferent executives whose inaction allowed veterans to die to be more easily fired," McCarthy said in a statement. "Now, even after the president signed this provision into law, his administration is refusing to defend this measure of accountability. This decision by the Obama administration puts our veterans at further risk. " Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, said Lynch's decision was "reckless" and "remarkably hypocritical given the fact that President Obama enthusiastically supported this law." The effect of Lynch's action is clear, said Miller, R-Fla.: "It undermines very modest reforms to our broken civil service system supported in 2014 by the president and an overwhelming majority of Congress." Helman was fired in November 2014, seven months after the wait-time scandal came to light. The scandal led to the ouster of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and a $16 billion law overhauling the labyrinthine veterans' health care system and making it easier to fire VA employees accused of wrongdoing. The inspector general found that workers at the Phoenix VA hospital falsified waiting lists while their supervisors looked the other way or even directed it, resulting in chronic delays for veterans seeking care. Similar problems were soon discovered nationwide. Intentional misconduct was substantiated in 51 of 77 completed investigations into scheduling problems and wait-time manipulation, the inspector general's office said in a February report. Problems at the VA have affected tens of thousands of veterans and prompted an outcry in Congress that continues as lawmakers and agency leaders struggle over how to improve the agency. VA Secretary Robert McDonald sparked widespread outrage last week when he compared long wait times at VA health sites to waiting in line at Disney theme parks. McDonald later said he regretted the remark, which lawmakers called insulting and inappropriate. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called the attorney general's decision in the Helman case "shameful" and said it contradicts a statement Obama made when he signed the VA reform law in August 2014. "If you engage in an unethical practice, if you cover up a serious problem, you should be fired. Period," Obama said at a signing ceremony at a Virginia military base. Lynch's decision "not only undermines the law that Congress passed and the president supported, but it sends a clear message that for President Obama and Attorney General Lynch, the sanctity of a federal bureaucrat's job is far more important than the health and well-being of our veterans," McCain said. Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole Navas said the department believes Helman's firing was proper, but a provision in the 2014 law that gives "an administrative judge final and unreviewable discretion to determine if the removal was lawful violates the U.S. Constitution." The department will continue "vigorously protecting the rights and interests of our service members and veterans," Navas added.
An evening of networking and professional development designed to provide those who have served and their families the opportunity to meet industry professionals, hiring managers, executives, and resource specialists. Three designated halls will cater to the needs of transitioning servicemembers, veterans, and spouses interested in networking with executives, mentors, hiring managers, and resource specialists in the following three arenas: military-friendly companies, aerospace careers, and entrepreneurship. Welcome and keynote speaker is Bill Kraus, co-owner of Mission BBQ. Read Bio Top Military-Friendly Employers: Candidates can network in the Space Race Hall with representatives from the top military-friendly companies from a variety of industries.  Aerospace Careers: The America by Air Hall will provide candidates the opportunity to meet and network with representatives and executives from aerospace organizations and companies looking to fill positions and provide resources. Exploring Entrepreneurship: Thinking about starting a business, already own one, or exploring franchise opportunities? Join us in the Pioneers of Flight Hall to network with successful veteran business owners and resource specialists and to learn more about ownership, growth, and taking your idea and career to the next level. Limited Capacity! Invitation Only!* This event is free for candidates *This is an invitation-only event. If you did not receive an invitation, please email to request one. You may be contacted by a MOAA representative if there are questions or if additional information is required to process your request.  View a video of last year's event   Employers/Exhibitors, for more information on the event options and to RSVP go here.       EVENT AGENDA   Event Time                      Description                                 Speakers   6:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.        Check-In                                      Bill Krause Mission BBQ   7:15 p.m. - 7:45 p.m.        MOAA Welcome and Keynote                                          *Open to the first 500 attendees              7:55 p.m. - 8:25 p.m.        TOP MILITARY-FRIENDLY EMPLOYERS SESSION/SPACE RACE HALL   Which Business Sector is Right For You? Thinking about a career in the government, private, or nonprofit sector? This panel session will provide information and advice to help you make an informed decision about your next career move.                                            IMAX theater   8:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.        ENTREPRENEURSHIP SESSION/PIONEERS OF FLIGHT HALL Be Your Own Boss! Exploring Entrepreneurship Panel Learn from an expert panel of veteran entrepreneurs, franchise owners, and resource specialists about business ownership! What to expect: You will hear from other veterans about how they made their business a success, listen to expert advice from resource specialists, learn what it takes to go into business for yourself, and get answers to your questions and network with the experts.                                           Einstein Planetarium   9:05 p.m. - 9:35 p.m.        AEROSPACE INDUSTRY SESSION/AMERICA BY AIR Career Opportunities in the Aerospace Industry Why work in the aerospace industry? Attend this session for an update on the current job market, which companies/organizations are hiring, and tips for landing the career of your dreams!                                           Einstein Planetarium   10:00 p.m.                         Event Ends                                                      EVENT SPEAKERS   Bill Krause - Mission BBQ          
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the launch of the Veterans Legacy Program to memorialize Veterans’ service and sacrifice through public educational programming.  The program uses the rich resources found throughout VA national cemeteries, Soldiers’ lots and monument sites. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald announced the program yesterday during a Memorial Day ceremony at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California.  “The Veterans Legacy Program is meant to bring to life the stories of Veterans buried in VA national cemeteries through lesson plans, interactive maps and video vignettes,” said Secretary McDonald. “Behind every marker is a story—a story of what it meant to be a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine and Coast Guardsman at a particular moment in time. Our goal is to ensure that our nation does not forget their stories and their sacrifice.”  Using online educational products such as lesson plans, interactive maps and short video vignettes, VA, through the Veterans Legacy Program, will engage the general public, students and educators.  VA launched this initiative earlier this year at two pilot sites: Beaufort National Cemetery in South Carolina and Riverside National Cemetery in California. Over the next several years, online educational products and programs will be developed for all VA national cemeteries.      VA has also formed a partnership with the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) to co-sponsor a “Teachers Institute,” a workshop for educators who will conduct research at VA and ABMC cemeteries. Information about the program may be found at More than 4 million Americans, including Veterans of every war and conflict, are buried in VA’s 133 national cemeteries. VA also provides funding to establish, expand, improve, and maintain 100 Veterans cemeteries in 47 states and territories including tribal trust lands, Guam and Saipan. For Veterans not buried in a VA national cemetery, VA provides headstones, markers or medallions to commemorate their service. In 2015, VA honored more than 353,000 Veterans and their loved ones with memorial benefits in national, state, tribal and private cemeteries. Information on VA burial benefits is available from local VA national cemetery offices at or by calling VA regional offices toll-free at 800-827-1000.  For more information about the history of VA national cemeteries, visit Blogs about the Veterans Legacy Program may be found at:  ###    
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill on Tuesday rolled out legislation aimed at helping World War II veterans she said were exposed to mustard gas by the military, a practice a daughter of one Missouri veteran said led to chronic health issues for her father. McCaskill's bill would require the Veterans Affairs Department and the Defense Department to reconsider disability benefits denied to those who claimed the testing caused health problems. McCaskill's office said the military tested the effects of mustard gas and the blister agent lewisite on about 60,000 veterans by the end of WWII. McCaskill's staff estimates a couple hundred participants could still be alive. Those tested were sworn to secrecy until 1991, and McCaskill said some have since struggled to receive compensation for health issues caused by exposure. The Democratic senator said the VA has denied about 90 percent of claims. The legislation also would require the VA and the Pentagon create a new policy to process future benefit claims related to mustard agents. An emailed statement from the VA sent Tuesday by spokesman James Hutton said the agency recognizes that full body mustard gas exposure might have caused disabilities. The VA plans to send letters in June to veterans who participated in testing and their families with a number to call for help. "VA is committed to identifying, locating, and fairly compensating all WWII Veterans who developed disabilities because they were exposed to mustard gas, whether through DoD testing or on the battlefields abroad," the statement read. But the agency's ability to do that, it says, is hampered by incomplete records of test subjects and the fact that records from the time were primarily paper-based. McCaskill said Congress "should've done more, sooner." She said her bill will help even though it's unclear how many veterans it could impact. Among those are 89-year-old Arla Harrell, a WWII veteran from Missouri and the bill's namesake. Harrell had mustard agents dabbed on his skin and was placed in a gas chamber without protections in southwestern Missouri's Camp Crowder after he enlisted in the Army in 1945, his daughter Beverly Howe said. Howe said her father was told that if he agreed to mustard-gas testing his health care would be covered for the rest of his life. She said he's since had lung issues and skin cancer, which she said are linked to mustard-gas exposure. Howe said he was denied disability claims for at least the fourth time in April. Howe said the legislation comes too late for many veterans but said it still could help some. "My dad is probably not going to get, if any benefits, much benefits," Howe said. "But my dad at least has been recognized." McCaskill's staff said she plans to introduce the bill after the Senate returns next week.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Memorials to veterans in a Los Angeles neighborhood and a town in Kentucky, as well as a Civil War veterans cemetery in Virginia, were damaged as the nation prepares to mark Memorial Day, officials said. A Vietnam War memorial in the Venice area of Los Angeles has been extensively defaced by graffiti. The vandalism occurred sometime during the past week, KCAL/KCBS-TV ( reported. The homespun memorial painted on a block-long wall on Pacific Avenue lists the names of American service members missing in action or otherwise unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. News of the vandalism came as another veterans-related memorial was reported damaged in Henderson, Kentucky. Police say a Memorial Day cross display there that honors the names of 5,000 veterans of conflicts dating back to the Revolutionary War has been damaged by a driver who plowed through the crosses early Saturday. In Virginia, the Petersburg National Battlefield has apparently has been looted, the National Park Service said. Numerous excavations were found at the Civil War battlefield last week, Jeffrey Olson, and agency spokesman, said in a news release Friday. Petersburg National Battlefield is a 2,700-acre park marks where more than 1,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died fighting during the Siege of Petersburg 151 years ago. In Los Angeles' Venice neighborhood, the wall for missing veterans has been tagged previously, but the latest vandalism covers the bottom half of the memorial for much of its length. To George Francisco, vice president of the Venice Chamber of Commerce, it's not just graffiti. "It's a desecration. I mean it's very simple. There's no sort of other way around it, said Francisco, who also runs a nonprofit called Veterans Foundation Inc. "I've known the sacrifices these people made in an incredibly unpopular war. So to continue the mistreatment of Vietnam veterans is somewhat shocking, somewhat shocking and quite sad," Francisco said. Painted by a Vietnam veteran and dedicated in 1992, it declares, "You are not forgotten" and states the number of missing as 2,273. According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, the number of unaccounted-for Americans was listed at 2,646 in 1973. About half were those missing in action, and the others were those killed in action but the body was not recovered. Since then, the remains of more than 1,000 American have been identified and returned and about 1,600 have still not been accounted for, although efforts continue. In Henderson, Kentucky, Jennifer Richmond, a spokesman for the Henderson Police Department, said the community is devastated and working frantically to repair and replace the crosses that were put on display for a Memorial Day ceremony in Central Park. She said a 27-year-old local man drove straight through the cross display in the Henderson park, about 130 miles west of Louisville, just before 6 a.m. Saturday, but investigators don't know if it was deliberate. Anthony Burrus has been charged with criminal mischief in the first degree and leaving the scene of an accident. Online jail records do not list an attorney for Burrus.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Donald Trump told a Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally on Sunday that people in the U.S. illegally often are cared for better than the nation's military veterans. "We're not going to allow that to happen any longer," Trump told supporters gathered at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. Dedicated to remembering prisoners of war and those missing in action, the crowd cheered - a sign, perhaps, that some veterans groups are stepping past their anger over Trump's comments last year in which he said he likes "people who weren't captured" in wars. That had been a dig at Arizona Sen. John McCain, who had been captured and held for more than five years during the Vietnam War. Trump claimed that McCain was a "war hero because he was captured." Trump has refused to apologize to McCain. Many veterans groups were furious, but since then Trump has worked to try to repair the damage. He frequently honors veterans at his rallies and he has come out with a plan to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs. He also held a fundraiser for veterans' causes in place of an Iowa debate that he skipped. Still, Trump, who avoided the draft through a series of deferments, drew scrutiny for not immediately distributing the $6 million he'd claimed to raise, including $1 million he'd pledged himself. He is expected to hold a news conference Tuesday to announce the name of the charities selected to receive the money. On Sunday, Trump also vowed to "knock the hell out of" the Islamic State group by building a bigger and better military and by cutting wait times for veterans needing medical care. "If there's a wait, we're going to give the right for those people to go to a private doctor or even a public doctor and get themselves taken care of and we're going to pay the bill," he said. Trump has a loyal following with bikers, who frequently attend his rallies, where they sometimes clash with Trump protesters. Among those eager to hear Trump speak was Louis Naymik, 52, of Clarksburg, Maryland, who said he served in the Ohio Army National Guard for four years. "There's history in the air here," he said. "We're living in historic times in our country today with the election and the choosing of a new president. And I just wanted to give honor to those who have fallen and sacrificed their lives for our country." Naymik, who works in radiology, was wearing a Trump shirt and said he had been a supporter since the day Trump announced his candidacy "What I like about Trump is that he is one of us. He's not a politician," he said, adding that Trump would bring the country back to its old values, put American citizens first and honor its veterans. BY JILL COLVIN
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Nursing assistant Tom Alligood wears camouflage scrubs during his emergency room shifts at the Dorn VA hospital because he says it helps other veteran patients realize they've "walked over the same dirt," the 62-year-old former Army tanker says. And he doesn't just mean the desert sands of Iraq. Alligood means homelessness, job loss and the mental anguish of being a long-time military veteran trying to adjust to the trials of a dog-eat-dog, backstabbing civilian world he says nearly ate him alive. "I need to be around veterans like me. That's where I get my strength, my 'positiveness' from," says the burly former first sergeant who now sports a long, gray braid on his back. Alligood says he has found a new mission - working in the sprawling Columbia VA hospital and helping as many of his one-time brothers and sisters in arms as he can. And the VA is looking for more people like Alligood. In an attempt to respond to the crisis of lengthy patient wait-times and a malfunctioning bureaucracy, VA Secretary Robert McDonald told Congress the agency hired about 14,000 health care workers last year, including 1,300 doctors and 3,600 nurses. Alligood's background as a military veteran is a plus, she says, and they can always use more like him. "Veterans know what it takes to serve and what sacrifices they've endured and what some of their challenges have been that have affected their health," the nurse supervisor says. Alligood said he can relate to his veteran-patients because the route he took from being a VA patient to VA caregiver has been a challenging one. After leaving the Army, he took a job managing a concrete block plant. The job was eliminated when the plant was sold. Falling deep in debt, Alligood said he took to sleeping in abandoned buildings after losing his car and his home. Life in homeless shelters didn't sit right, either. "I wasn't in the best of shape, mentally and physically," he said, his rumbling voice catching. "That was the lowest I've ever been." Alligood said counselors told him about a VA program that put homeless veterans into counseling and back to work. He grabbed the chance to put in 40 hours a week transporting other veterans around the hallways of the sprawling Dorn VA Medical Center in wheelchairs and gurneys. "It was for $5.15 an hour, minimum wage. But trust me, that $5.15 meant more to me at that time than anything," he recalls. As he traversed the hospital's maze of corridors, Alligood said he made a point of greeting as many people as he could. Alligood's banter with other veterans caught nursing administrator Ruth Mustard's ear. She told him the VA would pay for his schooling if he wanted to learn to become a certified nursing assistant and come back to help other veterans. He went back to school and the Florida native returned to the Dorn VA Medical Center, where he's logged three years in an eldercare unit and six years in the emergency department. "He has a fabulous rapport," Mustard said. Emergency room nurse Karen Teal says the former first sergeant has a personal touch that put stressed-out patients "instantly at ease." "He's our jewel," Teal says, beaming at her co-worker. Alligood said his days in Iraq and Saudi Arabia help him understand veterans who might be dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. He recounted one veteran he found experiencing a "flashback" in the ER. "I was able to tell him, 'I got your back, I got your back,'" Alligood said, telling how he'd gotten down on the floor with the ailing veteran, assuring him he'd reached a safe place. "I don't feel that this is a job for me. I feel that this is a calling, because I get to help so many people," Alligood said. --- Associated Press writer Bruce Smith contributed to this report from Charleston, South Carolina. BY SUSANNE M. SCHAFER
Newswise — Dr. Juan Quintana, CRNA, DNP, MHS, president of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), served in the military for nine years. Prior to becoming president of the AANA, Dr. Quintana served on the AANA Board of Directors in other positions and was also president of the Texas Association of Nurse Anesthetists. The president of Sleepy Anesthesia, founded in 1999, his anesthesia practice provides services to serves several hospitals in Texas. Dr. Quintana has been practicing anesthesia since 1997. Graduating with a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from Texas Christian University in 2009, Dr. Quintana is a leader in the area of education and evaluation of cost-effectiveness and efficiency. A highly sought-after lecturer, he has been invited to speak at hospitals and numerous anesthesia meetings on the state and national levels about the business of anesthesia, cost effectiveness of best anesthesia practice models, cost effectiveness of anesthesia professionals, and anesthesia billing and compliance. In 2010, Dr. Quintana became the first CRNA to serve on the Medicare Evidence Development and Coverage Advisory Council (MEDCAC), an independent body that provides the Medicare agency guidance and expert advice on the science and technology affecting healthcare delivery. Dr. Quintana, who speaks both English and Spanish, is also an educator, ex-officio faculty to the Texas Christian University (TCU) Doctor of Nursing Practice program, and adjunct faculty to TCU’s Nurse Anesthesia Program, both in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Quintana resides in Winnsboro, Texas. 
Newswise — ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Two young women, one disabled by a mortar blast in Afghanistan and the other injured in several battles while helping women in Baghdad, are the first two women veterans in Sandia National Laboratories’ Wounded Warrior Career Development Program (WWCDP).The WWCDP specializes in hiring disabled combat veterans into positions at Sandia. Gabrielle “Gabby” Holcomb, an Iraq war veteran, was the first woman hired through the program, followed by Lindsey Kibler, a veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. WWCDP offers injured veterans opportunities to acquire practical skills through job training and executive-level mentoring at Sandia. The goal is to facilitate a smooth and successful transition from military to civilian careers. Veterans typically are hired for limited-term employment of one to three years with the potential for permanent employment. Mortar blast marked ‘alive day’ in AfghanistanKibler is an Albuquerque native and a single mom. She served as an Army public affairs sergeant for nine years, with combat deployments to Iraq (2009-2010) and Afghanistan (2011-2012). She was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries sustained during her second deployment while embedded with a battalion from the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.“People call it your alive day,” said Kibler. “It’s the day you should have died, but you didn’t. Mine was October 24, 2011.” She was working near a combat outpost in a volatile area of southern Afghanistan when an 82-millimeter mortar, launched from a shoulder-fired weapon, landed less than 10 feet in front of her. The blast whipped her backwards, resulting in a traumatic brain injury and ruptured discs. Kibler now lives with numerous disabilities, including brain and spinal injuries, anxiety and debilitating migraines.She said that despite everything she went through in war, “I really loved my job in the military. I joined because I wanted to be able to say, ‘I have served my country.’ There is never going to be a brotherhood or sisterhood quite like there is in the service.”One week after separating from the military with honors including the Meritorious Service Medal, Kibler was hired by Sandia as an emergency public information coordinator. “Here is an organization who accepts us — wounded warriors — just as we are,” she said. “There are so many benefits to this program. The biggest one for me is knowing that I have other people who can understand some of the things that I have been through.” Baghdad explosions, concussions produced traumatic brain injuryMost people assume all wounded veterans are men.“When my husband and I are out, people assume that he is the veteran, and I’m the Army wife,” said Holcomb. “It is so common now that I am used to it. Most people expect that if someone is a veteran, he must be a man.”Holcomb joined the Army Reserves at 17. She moved around a lot growing up and learned about disabilities early because both her mother and father are handicapped. An eager student and the eldest child, she felt a military career offered a solid support system. “I knew I was going to need a job right out of high school where I could support myself and continue my education,” she said.Holcomb entered the Army as a civil affairs sergeant, where “I was intrigued to have an opportunity to make a difference and to help people,” she said. In 2005-2006, she spent nearly 18 months in Sadr City, Iraq, where she helped create a women’s shelter. “We offered counseling and a place for local women to go if they needed help, or to get away. Our services were there to gain the trust of the Iraqi people.”She worked in a combat role in the 448th Civil Affairs Battalion under a Special Forces group operating out of Baghdad. “Women bring a lot of skills to the military. There are fewer of us, but we are still a force to be reckoned with,” Holcomb said. While in combat, Holcomb suffered multiple head injuries. Three were close encounters with explosives. “Each time I was hit in the head by various objects, I received a concussion. I experienced several concussions in a short period of time, leading to a traumatic brain injury.”The disabilities she has learned to cope with since then include speech issues, memory loss, extreme anxiety and headaches.Holcomb, a quality assurance specialist at Sandia, received an Employee Recognition Award for her exceptional work in the counterfeit program.“Having disabilities does not mean that I will not be an outstanding employee,” she said. “I work hard to prove myself and I always strive to do the best job possible.” She said the WWCDP has set her up for career success. “The mentors I work with have really helped guide me along the way.” Veterans’ program welcomes womenOrganizers of Sandia’s WWCDP say they are excited to see more women veterans in the hiring program. “We really want to recruit more women,” said WWCDP co-lead H.E. Walter II, an Air Force veteran and an information security specialist who helped launch WWCDP at Sandia in 2010. “It’s important that women veterans know this opportunity is available to them.” According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 9 percent of veterans are women, making up about 2 million of 21.9 million U.S. veterans.Sandia’s Wounded Warrior Career Development Program is the only staffing initiative of its kind among the 17 Department of Energy laboratories. “I think we are leading the way for other national labs to consider doing these kinds of programs,” Walter said. WWCDP currently has 26 combat veterans on track to develop career-based experience at Sandia. Participants are expected to pursue advanced-level college degrees and are assigned technical, veteran and executive mentors. WWCDP was modeled after Oracle’s job and training program that helps wounded veterans transition into civilian employment.“These individuals have sacrificed so much for our nation. They bring leadership, integrity and that mentality of national security and national service that contributes to the missions at Sandia National Laboratories. This is one way we can show our combat injured veterans that if you are willing to work for us, there are programs that can assist you,” Walter said.________________________________________Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-program laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corp., for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies and economic competitiveness.Sandia news media contact: Rebecca Brock,, (505) 844-7772
Newswise — Bethesda, MD – Suicide attempts, like suicides, have increased in the U.S. Army over the last decade. To better understand and prevent suicidal behavior, researchers from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), the University of California, San Diego, Harvard Medical School, and the University of Michigan examined timing and risk factors for suicide attempts among U.S. Army enlisted Soldiers. They found the highest risk was among those who never deployed, and those who never deployed were at greatest risk during their second month of service. The study, which included more than 975,000 enlisted Soldiers, was published online (May 25) in JAMA Psychiatry, and was a component of the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS). Dr. Robert J. Ursano, the study Co-Principal Investigator and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at USU, and coauthors, used administrative records to examine risk factors, methods and timing of suicide attempts by Soldiers currently deployed, previously deployed and never deployed from 2004 through 2009. Of the Soldiers included in the study, 9,650 had attempted suicide. About 86 percent of those were younger than 30, about 60 percent were non-Hispanic white, about 76 percent were high school educated, and about 55 percent were currently married. According to this study, these findings suggest predictors of suicide attempts, which could provide greater opportunities for prevention of suicidal behavior in the military as well as in other populations. The authors also report that about 40 percent of enlisted Soldiers who had never deployed accounted for about 61 percent of the enlisted Soldiers who attempted suicide. Among those who never deployed, risk of a suicide attempt was highest in the second month of service. For Soldiers on their first deployment, the risk of suicide attempt was highest in the sixth month of deployment. For previously deployed Soldiers, the risk was highest five months after they returned. Additionally, Soldiers who were currently and previously deployed were more likely to attempt suicide with a firearm. Across deployment status, suicide attempts were more likely among Soldiers who were women, in their first two years of service, and had received a mental health diagnosis in the previous month. Soldiers with a previous deployment also had a higher risk of suicide attempt if they screened positive for depression or post-traumatic stress disorder after they returned from deployment, especially at a follow-up screening about four to six months after deployment. According to the study, deployment context is important in identifying suicide attempt risk among Army enlisted Soldiers, and a life/career history perspective can also help identify high-risk segments of a population based on factors such as timing, environmental context and individual characteristics. “Our findings while most relevant to active-duty U.S. Army Soldiers, highlight considerations that may inform the study of suicide risk in other contexts, such as during the transition from military to civilian life,” the study concludes. # # #