President Trump recently signed an executive order designed to combat veteran suicide.
The executive order directs the VA, DOD and Department of Homeland Security to come up with a plan to expand mental health programs and other resources to new veterans in the year following discharge.
According to the government, veterans who are in their first year of civilian life commit suicide nearly twice as much as other veterans, and veterans are twice as likely to commit suicide as those who never served.
To combat that trend, the Trump administration is seeking to provide mental health services to ALL veterans, especially those in their first year of civilian life. Currently, any veteran seeking mental health support from the VA has to prove service-connection, which often discourages people from seeking help.
Of course, many veterans stay away from the VA because of many reasons, so it will be interesting to see how the VA attempts to combat this problem.
On the positive side, this executive order seeks to use more resources than just the VA to solve the problem of veteran suicides. It will:
- Expand peer community outreach and group sessions in the VA Whole Health initiative from 18 Whole Health Flagship facilities to all facilities. Whole Health includes wellness and establishing individual health goals.
- Extend the Department of Defense’s “Be There Peer Support Call and Outreach Center” services to provide peer support for Veterans in the year following separation from the uniformed service.
- Expand the Department of Defense’s Military One Source (MOS), which offers resources to active duty members, to include services to separating service members to one year beyond service separation.
The executive order doesn't give any of the agencies additional funding to accomplish their mission, or lay out specifics, it just directs that a plan of action is in place within 60 days. We will be watching hopefully to see if anything of any substance is developed, or if this will fall by the wayside like so many other joint VA/DOD ventures.
Hopefully this time it won't, this time lives are at stake.