The wounded warriors (5×8 – 4/16/12)

The scandal no one wants to talk about, did you cheat on taxes, dispatches from Planet Prom, the new Oil Patch suburbs, and Wits’ ‘pitch season.’


The Monday Morning Rouser:

1) THE SECRET SCANDAL

For all the phony “issues” in the political campaigns this season, here’s one you’re not likely to know: Veterans in the United States kill themselves at the rate of 1 every 80 minutes. That statistic comes from the Department of Defense via the New York Times, which focused on a single incident in a story on Sunday. But it’s a story that appears to repeated every day.

In an op-ed, Nicholas Kristoff profiled the case of Specialist Ryan Yurchison, who returned from Iraq with PTSD and, after seeking help at the local V.A. hospital, died of a drug overdose in a possible suicide. An op-ed film about Yurchison, Good Night Ryan, reveals just how unwilling the government was to do much of anything to save him.

In the Star Tribune Sunday, reporter Mark Brunswick found many of the same woes in Blake Uddin’s case. The St. Louis Park native tried to get help from the local VA, but was turned away. He ended up stealing a car, crashing it, and standing in the middle of a highway to be struck. He now faces a criminal trial.

A commenter on that story recognizes the flaw in the system that so few others do:

Having worked in the field of mental health this person would have been put on a 72 hour hold to properly asses his matters of confusion. Then before release provide a safety and competence test and given the necessary medication to help him in his struggles, if he wasn’t stable then we would go to the court to recommend a 3 to six month hold to work a effective plan to help him manage is mental status. I never had understood why the VA doesn’t practice this policy.

Back to Kristoff’s op-ed…

To its credit, the V.A. has established a suicide hotline and appointed suicide-prevention coordinators. It is also chipping away at a warrior culture in which mental health concerns are considered sissy. Still, veterans routinely slip through the cracks. Last year, the United States Court of Appeals in San Francisco excoriated the V.A. for “unchecked incompetence” in dealing with veterans’ mental health.

Patrick Bellon, head of Veterans for Common Sense, which filed the suit in that case, says the V.A. has genuinely improved but is still struggling. “There are going to be one million new veterans in the next five years,” he said. “They’re already having trouble coping with the population they have now, so I don’t know what they’re going to do.”

This morning in the Star Tribune, an obituary for a 31-year-old man in a soldier’s uniform carries no mention of the cause of death. Memorials are preferred to the Wounded Warriors Project, .

2) JUST ONE QUESTION…

Do you cheat?

Related: The weirdest tax deductions ever submitted. (Neatorama)

3) DISPATCHES FROM PLANET PROM

It’s prom season, a time of heart-warming stories and stupid decisions.

In Wausau, Wisconsin, prom-goers are being asked — required, actually — to sign a statement saying they will not grind.

The changes came after “kids’ way of dancing changed, it was getting more and more, I don’t know what the right word is … getting more physical, I guess you could say,” Svitak said. “They were doing things on the dance floor that would have got them arrested on the street.”

We have one teacher who will come with a meter stick, and use that to make sure there’s space between couples,” one student tells the Wausau Daily Herald. “It’s kind of old school.”

A 17-year-old cancer survivor wanted to go to the prom with a Heisman Trophy finalist in Alabama. And so she will.

A Marshall University fraternity went to the prom on Friday, the one they hosted for senior citizens.

Times are tough in Maine and proms are expensive. So a high school girl there is doing her part to provide free prom dresses.

4) NORTH DAKOTA’S NEW SUBURB

In North Dakota, residents of mobile homes are being evicted this summer. The residents, reportedly some of the poorest members of the Three Affiliated Tribes, are being moved to make way for housing for Oil Patch workers, the Fargo Forum reports.

How bad is the housing situation in western North Dakota? South Dakota is the new suburb. BusinessWeek reports that Oil Patch workers are moving to South Dakota, and commuting.

A realtor in Spearfish tells the Rapid City Journal that he’s selling houses to quite a few oil workers. That’s 300 miles — one way — from the Oil Patch.

5) PITCH SEASON

From Friday night’s Wits session at the Fitzgerald Theater in Saint Paul:

Bonus: Survey says people might be concerned about the marriages of others, but are unshakeable about their own. (LiveScience.com)

TODAY’S QUESTION

Legislators are considering a proposal requiring online retailers to collect sales taxes when Minnesota customers make purchases. Today’s Question: Would you change your shopping habits if online retailers started collecting sales tax?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Who controls the Internet? Michael Joseph Gross lays out the stakes in a conflict that could split the virtual world as we know it.

Second hour: How campus security has changed since the Virginia Tech shootings.

Third hour: Making sense of health and fitness studies.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Live broadcast from the National Press Club, featuring Alec Baldwin, spokesman for Americans for the Arts.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The latest in the Iran-nukes controversy.

Second hour: The documentary “Bully” is a brutal depiction of school bullying, and its consequences. Many schools hoped to show it to students, until, it got an R rating. Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein led the pushback.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – A soldier returned from Iraq with the psychological wounds of war. Making music about PTSD has become therapy for him and for other struggling veterans. NPR has the story of a former soldier singing for his life and his comrades.

  • A young man I know is considering working in North Dakota this summer, and recently he had a chance to talk to two business owners in No Dak. They told him to just sleep in his vehicle. The young man is now contemplating bringing a tent. Why aren’t they building some trailer parks or other quick, temporary housing? I just can’t imaging driving 600 miles to commute to work and back.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Drae – “Why aren’t they building some trailer parks or other quick, temporary housing?”

    Who is the THEY that you’re referring to? Is it the mining interests? Perhaps it’s because they don’t care where anybody sleeps.

    And of course one couldn’t REGULATE them and force them to dip into their astronomical profits to provide livable conditions for their workers, could we. Next thing you know, they would be expected to provide health care. 🙂

  • @Jim Shapiro – I mean anyone with a business sense. There’s a demand no one is supplying. Seems to me there’s money to be made there, like simply renting some RVs or something. But what the heck do I know? Except that people in South Dakota are more than willing to be the ones profiting. North Dakota’s inability to supply the demand is South Dakota’s gain. Does that make South Dakotans bad?

  • Jim Shapiro

    Wounded Warriors= cannon fodder. Since Korea. Heaven forbid we teach the reality of our glorious wars and their aftermath in high school history class. Who would ever enlist?

    Oh, that’s right. People who need a job and don’t have any other good prospects.

  • boB from WA

    RE #2// “The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has” – Will Rodgers

  • Jim Shapiro

    Drae – “There’s a demand no one is supplying.” Agreed. I was seeing boat payments from camper van rentals as I read the post.

    As for South Dakotans being bad, some of my horse theivin’, gubmint runnin’ relatives were pretty bad, but it would be neither fair nor accurate to generalize about the entire population based on my personal experience. 🙂

  • shleigh

    They are building temporary housing – google ND Man Camps. It’s not that North Dakota doesn’t want to meet the damand, they just literally cannot keep up. Not only do they have the influx of oil workers, but the flooding last summer destroyed a lot of homes and left long-term residents scrambling for a place to live.

    It’s been about 10 years since I’ve been up to that part of ND, but I’d like to go see how it’s changed.

  • David G

    Another factor limiting construction of permanent housing is that a lot of people remember the oil boom of the 80s that went bust. There was a lot of excess housing after that.