|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
A top-ranking official at the Department of Veterans Affairs defends the agency's treatment of disabled veterans and denies the agency has tried to cover up the number of veterans committing suicide.
Dr. Michael Kussman, a department undersecretary for health, testified during a trial in San Francisco federal court that will determine whether the VA is shirking its duty to provide adequate mental health care and other medical services to millions of veterans.
The two veterans groups suing the VA want U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Conti to order the agency to dramatically improve how fast it processes applications and how it delivers mental health care, especially when it comes to preventing suicides and treating post-traumatic stress disorder.
The groups contend that veteran suicides are rising at alarming rates in large part because of VA failures. In court, plaintiffs' lawyer Arturo Gonzalez clashed Thursday with Kussman over how to compile and report the suicide rates.
For instance, VA Secretary James Peake told Congress in a Feb. 5 letter that 144 combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed suicide between October 2001 and December 2005.
But Gonzalez produced internal VA e-mails that contended that 18 veterans a day were committing suicide. Kussman countered that the figure, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, included all 26 million veterans in the country, including aging Vietnam veterans who are reporting an increased number of health problems.
Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the Pentagon is planning "potential" military actions against Iran, reports The Washington Post.
Mullen criticized Iran's "'increasingly lethal and malign influence' in Iraq," writes Ann Scott Tyson for the Post.
Addressing concerns about the US military's capability of dealing with yet another conflict at a time when forces are purportedly stretched thin, Mullen said war with Iran "would be 'extremely stressing' but not impossible for U.S. forces, pointing specifically to reserve capabilities in the Navy and Air Force," Tyson notes.
"It would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability," she quotes the U.S.'s top military leader at a Pentagon news conference.