The Veterans Administration has lied about the number of veterans who have attempted suicide, Sen. Patty Murray said Wednesday, citing internal e-mails that put the number at 12,000 a year while the department was publicly saying it was fewer than 800.
"The suicide rate is a red alarm bell to all of us," the Washington Democrat said, adding that the VA's mental health programs are being overwhelmed by Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans even as the department seeks to downplay the situation. "We are not your enemy, we are your support team, and unless we get accurate information we can't be there to do our jobs."
Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Gordon Mansfield apologized during a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, telling Murray and other senators he did not think there was any deliberate attempt to mislead Congress or the public.
But Murray remained skeptical, saying the VA has shown a pattern of misleading Congress when it comes to the increasing number of soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan seeking help and putting a strain on DOD and VA facilities and programs.
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Read HuffPost's Rachel Sklar on the "hidden epidemic" of military suicides.