“PTSD” 65K Suicides Later: Veterans-Service to Prison Pipeline Exposed (Pre-4/20: Letter to Senate and House)
April 19, 2017
To the Most Honorable Members of the US Senate and House of Republicans
Russell Senate Office Building & Rayburn House Office Building
RE: 65K Suicides Later: Veterans- PTSD to Prison Pipeline Exposed
My name is Brandon L. Wyatt Esq., I am a Iraqi war combat veteran, friend, and concerned attorney.
To understand the magnitude of the unfolding national tragedy facing veterans, I want to highlight that since the FDA approval of MAPS cannabis study in 2011, approximately 65,000 Veterans have died from suicide and prescription drug overdoses in this Country. More, since that time we have seen leading research hospitals, such as John’s Hopkins University, offer academic assistance and fall short of providing any results, albeit charging a heavy tax-payer paid price tag.
Oddly, death is not the “only” and/or debatably the “worse” consequence. Directly, on any given day, veterans account for nine of every hundred individuals in ALL U.S. jails and prisons.
There are nearly 580,000 veterans living in the greater urban Washington, D.C. metropolitan (MD, DC, VA, WVa) area.
In Maryland, my direct area of responsibility, most counties are comprised of approximately 10 percent veterans, with Prince George’s county having the highest concentration of veterans in the region.
Veterans face unique risks due to their military service (including psychological and cognitive injuries associated with combat and repeated deployments), which directly lead to mental health problems, relationship difficulties, financial hardships, and incarceration.
In fact, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has openly accepted the “military to prison pipeline” and attempted to create provisions regarding treating veterans for mental illness as opposed to incarceration. Irrespective of the above listed efforts by the VA, it is estimated that there are 700,000 veterans under court supervision in the United States.
Even after serving applicable sentences, veterans are at risk. Within my region, neither Washington, D.C. nor Maryland have veteran intervention courts or programs to help alleviate the pressures exerted by the legal system. It is notable that the Maryland District Court has a combination of 12 mental health courts and drug treatment courts, but no veterans treatment courts.
Based on the aforementioned, there are true challenges presented to veterans regarding mental health, substance abuse, homelessness, incarceration, and unemployment. This all occurs as a result of a federally created workforce disability.
Incarceration and/or a criminal record adversely impacts a veteran’s employment prospects. Directly, due to PTSD, veterans have a high propensity to create conditions that produce barriers to employment. In addition to the stigma attached to a criminal record, these impacts include the erosion of basic job skills, disruption of formal education, and the loss of social networks that can improve job-finding prospects. Veterans with convictions also face legal restrictions that create barriers to employment in many government jobs and licensed professions.
Veterans affected by PTSD are more likely to have failed marriages, be indigent, and have a number of medical problems. “It’s one of those things that cascades over time. You lose your job. Your marriage falls apart, and it just accumulates,” notes Dr. Michele Spoont, psychologist at the VA Health Care System. For those left undiagnosed and ultimately untreated, PTSD can have life-altering consequences, including hospitalization, unemployment, and poverty.
As a result of the aforementioned factors, veterans are at high risk for homelessness, unemployment, death and immediate bodily injury. Alarmingly, the rate of suicide among US veterans who actually utilize VA services increased by 8.8%, while the rate of suicide among Veterans who do not use VA services increased by 38.6% since 2001.
Due to the barriers that mental health issues present and the volatile nature against societal norms illicit therein, veterans with PTSD are at high risk for being incarcerated, homeless, and unemployed.
Even worse, within the Washington D.C. & Maryland community there is a direct correlation to opiate addiction and the ensuing disparate circumstances that surround a lack of true research regarding alternative medicine, such as cannabis. After a review of your local jurisdiction statistics, there is an alarming national nexus.
Please review additional direct literature in the following PBS article.
There is a pressing need for Federal and State legislatures, research hospitals, and the population at large to look at the opiate crisis, the systemic nature of its affects, and potential cannabis cures through the spectrum of diverse veterans populations. It is an accurate and long overdue application of applied sociology to policy development.
Our preliminary research, shows deaths from opiate overdoses decreased 25% in those states with legally accessible cannabis.
We all must work to decrease incarcerations and the “military to prison” pipeline. There is a true gap in policy coordination, removal of barriers to employment, and targeted emphasis programs to help the re-intergration & recidivism of our injured service members.
Please show support and innovation in finding a way past this hurdle. The lives of many now and those countless numbers in the future are dependent on your true leadership.
Truly in Service,