Three interesting and important stories in the past two days on military suicides:
→ Repeat Brain Injury Raises Soldiers’ Suicide Risk
People in the military who suffer more than one mild traumatic brain injury face a significantly higher risk of suicide, according to research by the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah.
A survey of 161 military personnel who were stationed in Iraq and evaluated for a possible traumatic brain injury – also known as TBI – showed that the risk for suicidal thoughts or behaviors increased not only in the short term, as measured during the past 12 months, but during the individual’s lifetime.
→ In Calculation of Military Rates, the Numbers Are Not All Straightforward
As the number of suicides in the military began rising a decade ago, Pentagon officials could often be heard repeating a common defense: The military’s suicide rate was still lower than the rate for civilians of comparable age, sex and race.
But an analysis of Pentagon data shows that the Department of Defense uses numbers that may underestimate its suicide rate. A different methodology, like one employed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, would result in a military rate equivalent to or above the comparable civilian rate, experts say.
→ Baffling Rise in Suicides Plagues the U.S. Military
[T]though the Pentagon has commissioned numerous reports and invested tens of millions of dollars in research and prevention programs, experts concede they are little closer to understanding the root causes of why military suicide is rising so fast.
“Any one variable in isolation doesn’t explain things,” said Craig J. Bryan, associate director of the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah. “But the interaction of all of them do. That’s what makes it very difficult to solve the problem. And that’s why we haven’t made advances.”
Over at Medill National Security Zone, we’ve launched our latest how-to guide for national security reporters, this one from on a military-insider-turned journalist.
“The military trains for interacting with the press the same way it trains for interrogation and torture as a prisoner of war. And as unfair as it may be, that is the stigma that you as a journalist have to overcome when you approach a member of the military. I shared this skepticism and distrust of the press during my career as an Air Force special operations pilot,” Nolan Peterson writes in his main story.
As he sees it, your challenge as a journalist is to:
- Overcome the stigma
- Build rapport
- Ask intelligent and sophisticated questions
- Balance producing objective and accurate journalism with the military’s job to protect the American people.
Peterson ia former special operations pilot and a combat veteran with multiple degrees in political science, French and journalism. As a freelance writer, he has covered international affairs and national security and have been published by several national publications. Read his how-to tips.
How about “effective and efficient.” Or “well-prepared.” And “innovative solutions” along with “quickly resolved.”
Those are pulled directly from a report summary e-mailed today by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector general, which reviewed FEMA’s response to Hurricane Isaac last year in Louisiana and found it to be pretty darned good.
Summary: In the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac there was widespread flood damage in low lying areas, impacting 15 parishes. As a result, FEMA recommended and the President declared an emergency in 15 parishes and later declared a major disaster, clearing the way for Individual Assistance and Public Assistance in 55 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes.
WE determined FEMA’s overall response to Hurricane Isaac was effective and efficient. Since FEMA had established facilities and staff in Louisiana, when Hurricane Isaac made landfall, it was well-prepared, faced challenges with innovative solutions, and quickly resolved resource shortfalls.
Here’s the full report (PDF).
New data from the Pentagon shows a 6% increase in sexual assaults in the military between 2011 and 2012 — 3,374 vs. 3,192 the year before.
Some 6.1% of active duty women reported some kind of unwanted sexual contact — up from 4.4% the year before. The number for men was 1.2%, about the same as 2011.
Today’s release of the annual Department of Defense report on assaults, based on anonymous surveys, comes just days after an Air Force officer with responsibility for an assault prevention unit was arrested in Virginia on sexual assault charges, sparking outrage and fallout in Congress, at the Pentagon and across the country. There have been gobs of stories on the latter incident, as well as the reaction, so we’ll focus instead on making the new report available for review.
Both volumes can be browsed (or downloaded) by visiting our page here, or clicking on the image upper right.
Note: Earlier reports back to 2004 are available here.
Military sexual assaults since 2004. SOURCE: Department of Defense
Mother Jones harvested some of the best comments that airline passengers have given as part of public feedback for the Transportation Security Administration over its “Advanced Imaging Technology” scanners.
Some 3,500 comments have been submitted to the TSA about the scanners, some of which are being replaced with devices that are said to offer greater privacy. About 1,500 comments are available for review on a government site.
Among the highlights showcased by Mother Jones:
- No to scanners. You want to see my junk? Fine. But first buy me a drink. -Jack A. Webber
- I am a stroke survivor…I am a rape survivor… I take a train or drive, because I’m not willing to put myself in the hands of people who bully and try to railroad me through machines my doctor has strictly said to stay away from. -T.A.
- I am an 82 year old Jewish woman with an artificial hip. That makes me a prime terrorist suspect according to the TSA. I need to be frisked every time I fly. That is a disgusting procedure. I doubt that Janet Napolitano would want her mother or her grandmother to be subjected to it. -Joan B. Berkowitz
- I spent over 36 years on active duty in the United States Navy. Had numerous very high security clearances and was a qualified Nuclear Weapons delivery pilot. Being “frisked” or forced into an X-ray machine and treated as a common criminal [is] disgusting to someone who dedicated a large portion of his life to the defense of the united States. -Terry Farnell Carraway
- You’re really asking us if we want you to be checking out our genitals in the name of national security? -Alec
See the full list.
(Hat tip to Natalie Jones for sending along the Mother Jones link).
Unemployment rates for veterans dropped to the lowest point so far this year in April, with particular improvement for female veterans, new Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows.
- For all veterans, the April rate was 6.2%, down from 7.1% in March and slightly lower than non-veterans (6.9%).
- For veterans who have served since 9/11 (know as the “Gulf War II” era), the monthly decline to 7.5% was significant; it was 9.2% in March, the same as April 2012.
- The rate for post-9/11 women fell nearly 5 points to 7.2%, the lowest since April 2011.
See chart and table below. | View and download our compilation of veterans unemployment statistics.
Meantime, the Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend that “thousands of National Guard and Reserve troops coming home from Afghanistan and elsewhere find they have been replaced, demoted, denied benefits or seniority.”
The Times found that the government itself is a leading contributor to the problem.
“Government agencies are among the most frequent offenders, accounting for about a third of the more than 15,000 complaints filed with federal authorities since the end of September 2001, records show. Others named in the cases include some of the biggest names in American business, such as Wal-Mart and United Parcel Service.”
&rarr Full Los Angeles Times story
An annual government report on national security investigation legal probes involving foreign intelligence shows an uptick in requests to do surveillance or searches of people suspected of being involved in terrorism against the U.S.
Law enforcement officials made 1,856 so-called “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Requests”to a special panel of judges in 2012 and all of them were approved, an annual report from the Department of Justice this week showed. In 40 cases, the judicial review panel asked for modifications; in one case, the government withdrew its request.
That total was 6% higher than 2011, when 1,745 requests were made.
Nearly all the requests in 2012 and 2011 — 96% — were for authority to conduct surveillance. The remainder were for physical searches.
National Security Letters issues by the the FBI were down about 8%, dropping to 15,229. Those requests involved 6,223 individuals — 14% fewer than a year earlier.
The controversial National Security Letters are demands from the FBI for certain information about someone — and they can come along with a order to not even disclose that a request was made.
The 2012 Report sent to the U.S. Senate. | Earlier reports.
SOURCE: OnTheBeat graphics using EPIC.org compilation from Federation of American Scientists document collection.