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Nearly one-third of recent U.S. military veterans have considered committing suicide, according to a new survey

By David Martosko In Washington
PUBLISHED: 17:12 EST, 1 August 2013

An astonishing survey from a veterans group found that 30 per cent of recent military vets have considered committing suicide since returning from active duty.

The Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) surveyed more than 4,000 of its members, 37 per cent of whom said they personally knew a recent vet who took his or her own life. Overall, 45 per cent reported knowing a fellow soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who has tried to commit suicide.

The former active-duty ranked suicide as the most important issue facing Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Fully 63 per cent - nearly two-thirds - said they have veteran friends whom they believe need medical help dealing with a mental health issue brought on by combat. And more than half polled in the survey admitted that someone close to them has suggested that they need mental health care.

Ken Wahl, a former Hollywood actor and star of the 1980s hit TV show 'Wiseguy,' told MailOnline that he's not surprised at the numbers.

'To me, as an American, this is the most vitally important issue of our time. How can this country's leaders treat its defenders so poorly?' Wahl asked. 'Without them, there is no America.'

'Convicted felons and illegal immigrants are treated better and with greater regard than our military heroes.

In the IAVA survey, 80 per cent of the group's members said the VA and the Pentagon don't provide sufficient care for veterans who need mental health treatment.

Wahl said Veterans Administration leaders bear the blame for failing to take better care of the men and women who fight overseas.

'This neglect of our country's bravest brothers and sisters is nothing less than a national disgrace, as well as a national tragedy,' he said in an email.

'Troop and Veteran suicide is the symptom. Appalling mistreatment of them is the disease. This shameful, despicable treatment of our troops and veterans MUST be remedied. Immediately.'

Wahl has been the subject of speculation that he might run for Congress in Arizona next year, with most prognosticators pointing to his advocacy for Veterans as his key issue.

'If I were to do it, one of the reasons would be to go against this antiquated two-party system.,' he told MailOnline in April.

'Now, I don't think that I would win,' he conceded. 'Maybe I'd wake up a few people.'

The IAVA told Yahoo News that it 'works closely with the Veteran Crisis Line to ensure that every service member, veteran, family member and provider knows that there is free and confidential help available 24 hours a day through phone, text and online.'

'Veterans, or those concerned about veterans, can call 800-273-8255 and press 1 to be directly connected to qualified responders.'