By Aaron Glantz
"SAN FRANCISCO, Apr 22 (IPS) - The United States government does such a bad job of caring for wounded war veterans, advocates told a federal judge here Monday, that 18 veterans commit suicide every week.
"The suicide problem is out of control," said Gordon Erspamer, an attorney representing the groups Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth in a class action lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). "Our veterans deserve better."
Erspamer's comments came in opening arguments for what is expected to be a week-long trial, the first class action brought on behalf of 1.7 million Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.
Early arguments were punctuated by allegations top government officials deliberately deceived the U.S. public about the number of veterans attempting suicide.
In one e-mail made public during the trial, the head of the VA's Mental Health division, Dr. Ira Katz, advised a media spokesperson not to tell reporters 1,000 veterans receiving care at the VA try to kill themselves every month.
"Shh!" the e-mail begins......."