Navy Yard shooting: We need better mental health care for veterans
By Dawud Walid
We are faced with yet another national tragedy with the Washington Navy Yard shooting which has left 12 innocent people dead. As elected officials and pundits discuss the reasons why shooter Aaron Alexis initiated his killing spree, I hope, as a veteran of the U.S. Navy, that much of the discussion is based on how our nation can better serve the mental health issues of our citizens, especially veterans.
Alexis served in the Navy and held a security clearance as a defense contractor at the time of his killing spree. He also had two prior brushes with the law for inappropriate use of firearms. The last incident led to his discharge from the military. His father purports that he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result from assisting in recovery efforts of 9/11.
Alexis should have been given long term and thorough mental health care prior to and after his discharge. Moreover, this should have been a criterion for his receiving a security clearance to come back on a military installation as a defense contractor. It’s astounding that a man, who stated to the Veterans Administration that he heard voices, was allowed to maintain a security clearance, much less own firearms.
The Department of Defense with the aid of Congress needs more resources to assist Americans leaving the military. Suicide, substance abuse and homeless rates of those who wore the uniform are far higher than those who never did.
As we look for answers to how our nation can take measures to prevent another such tragedy, the conversation should not about Alexis being black or Buddhist. Our discourse should be centered on how we can end one of our national shames: How poorly we serve the mental health needs of those who sacrifice themselves by serving in the armed forces.
Alexis appears to be one such veteran who was underserved.