Those studying Veteran Suicide need to look here as well

To:
President of the United States of America
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
United States Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs
House Committee on Veterans Affairs
Mission 22

I think it is admirable that suicide prevention is receiving your attention and is a top priority.

But I also believe that to solve this problem, you must address the underlying cause and so far I have not heard anybody talking about it, which is the purpose of my letter.

A doctor’s treatment can go a long way to solve the problems IF the veteran has a source of income such as a pension or disability income.

What if that veteran has no income and nobody to fall back on.

How will you solve that problem using a doctor’s treatment or the resources of the Department of Veterans Affairs?

I will do what I can to get you to understand what the veteran is facing and perhaps this will help you to realize that there is so much more that we could be doing to prevent veterans suicide.

My story follows:

I joined the Navy on 13 October 1976.

At that point the U.S. Government promised me the GI Bill to better myself with and a home loan.

In the chart showing my lifetime earnings, you will see my income in the years from 1976 to 2015 using data maintained by the Social Security Administration.
• 1976 – 1982 – Navy Years
• 1983 – 1988 Electronic Repair, Mil-Spec Testing, QA Engineer Years
• 1989 – 2002 – Software years (programmer, systems analyst, team lead, project manager)
• 2003 – 2016 – Very little work, some software, some real estate, VRAP program as income

As you can see, I never went without work until 2003, and my career was just starting to take off around 2000 as I had acquired all of the skills necessary to deliver the complete software solution.

From Aug 2010 until Feb 2016 I was totally unemployable as NOBODY would hire me at any level.

In 2013 I was accepted into the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program where I was promised “Employment Assistance” by the Department of Labor

I graduated, and the “Employment Assistance” was to pass us off to the Texas Workforce Commission.

Problem is, the Texas Workforce Commission cannot force employers to hire older veterans who are deemed overqualified.

For five years I relayed to my team at the VA hospital that I was very depressed as nobody would hire me.

Apparently, they noted in my medical data that I was considering suicide as that was brought up when they finally hired me to mop floors as a housekeeping aid at the Kerrville, TX VA Center.

Not once did anybody at any level tell me that there was a Compensated Work Therapy program at the Department of Veterans Affairs that would have allowed me some source of income.

My point is that the “system” failed me at all levels even though I jumped through the required hoops and had the best technical skills out there.

If I experienced that, what are the veterans experiencing that do not have my skills or my “determined to get back in the game” mindset?

Now let me show you why this is happening.

Around 1976 we began to send our jobs to other countries using Free Trade Agreements.

In 1990 we began to import non-immigrant guest workers to fill jobs.

And our population continues to rise.

Which means we need more jobs so that everybody that wants to work can work.

But, sending jobs to other countries decreases the quantity of jobs that are available to our population.

And, importing non-immigrant guest workers also decreases the quantity of jobs that are available to our population.

A first-grade math education will tell you that this formula will NOT work.

So, we as a country, hide behind unemployment numbers that do not count those whose unemployment benefits have expired.

Which is forcing out the younger kids who do not have their skills established yet and the older folks, many who are veterans as our employer’s cherry pick from an increasing supply of labor with a decreasing quantity of jobs.

Our labor force participation rate will prove this.

But there is a better way to demonstrate what is happening.

You simply take the total nonfarm payroll numbers from 1939 until today and the population totals of America from 1939 until today.

And you divide the total nonfarm payroll number by the population which gives you the chart that you saw when you first opened this letter.

As you can see, we have fewer people working today than we did in 2000.

Yet our government maintains that we are creating jobs year over year, month over month.

Which is not a lie.

They simply hide the fact that fewer people are working because we have fewer jobs for our people.

Which destroyed my future.

Even today, I can tell those at the Department of Veterans Affairs that I have the software skills to help them modernize their software systems.

After giving me a blank stare, they just shrug their shoulders or say “So?”

As for our government honoring their commitment to help me buy a home,I am told your credit is destroyed, so we can’t help you.

Which is leaving our veterans between a rock and a hard place.

Many are being forced into homelessness when they find all doors closed.

If it were not for my mother and some friends, I too would be just another homeless statistic by now.

Hopefully my letter will at least demonstrate to you that you must broaden your efforts if you truly want to stop veteran suicide.

At least I hope it will as veterans like myself are depending on you, our government, to honor your commitment to them.

And to our country.

Respectfully,

Virgil Bierschwale
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