WASHINGTON,DC - Ex-Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY) raised eyebrows again today in comments he made at an event to publicize "World Suicide Prevention Day." On September 10th, events are put on to explain that suicide is a preventable tragedy and to put the focus on the need for more suicide prevention resources.
Simpson's comments were made in response to a reporter's request for a reaction after Simpson abruptly left a presentation in a large meeting room of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Experts from the National Institute of Mental Health and the Department of Veteran Affairs were sharing the latest research and strategies in regard to the problem of suicide in the elderly and returning veterans, respectively.
Simpson, known for his no-nonsense approach to public policy issues, appeared eager to give his opinion on the matter.
"As the co-chair of the President's deficit reduction committee, I have to look at these issues without sentimentality," the ex-Senator explained. "Frankly, from a budgetary perspective, it's counterproductive to try to prevent the suicides of elderly people and veterans.
"The suicide of a senior who could live 10-20 years represents a huge cost-savings to the government and the taxpayers. The suicide of one single senior means that tens of thousands in Social Security payments don't have to get paid out - and there's an unknown savings in Medicare payments for medical care - but that could easily add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"It's the same deal with veterans, only moreso. I'd bet that most veterans who contemplate suicide are diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or have some sort of serious disabling injury. These guys are costing the government a fortune in counseling, support, and rehabilitation. We trusted these warriors to make life and death decisions on the battlefield. It seems hypocritical to second-guess these patriots when they decide they want to end it all."
Simpson hastened to add that the deficit reduction committee hadn't taken up these issues and that if they ever did, he would make sure it was done in a "responsible" manner.
"I realize there's a problem with people using guns or doing other things that result in collateral damage. It would make sense to yank the federal funds for suicide prevention and use a portion of those dollars to purchase do-it-yourself suicide manuals for the elderly and veterans."
Last month, Simpson elicited outrage from many segments of the public when he said Social Security recipients were feeding off a "milk cow with 310 million tits." He angered still more members of the public when he complained that returning veterans receiving benefits were "not helping to save the country" in terms of our fiscal problems.
So far, there has been no reaction to Simpson's latest off-the-cuff remarks.