Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake defended two VA health officials who lawmakers charge purposely misled them over the number of veteran suicides occurring each year, saying that he would not ask them to resign even as some members of Congress called on them to do so.
Both of these gentlemen are outstanding public servants with long histories of outstanding service to veterans, Peake said, referring to Ira Katz, the VAs deputy chief of mental health services, and Michael Kussman, the VAs undersecretary of health. Katz and Kussman have come under fire since a series of internal e-mails were made public that allegedly show the VA knew that many more veterans were attempting suicide than the VA had reported.
Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, upbraided Peake and other department officials, calling the flap a bureaucratic cover-up.
What we see is a pattern, Mr. Secretary, Filner said. The pattern is to deny, deny, deny. Then, when the facts seemingly come to disagree with that denial, you cover up, cover up, cover up.
But Peake denied that there was an attempt by the VA to mislead and said that any miscalculations were the result of complicated, hard-to-measure data. He said he would convene a panel of outside experts to help better track mental health issues within the veteran community. -- by Matthew DoBias