Luria pushes for answers to prevent veteran suicide

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Suicide among veterans is at epidemic levels – with 16.8 veterans dying by suicide a day, according to data from VA’s 2019 National Suicide Prevention Annual Report.

Another sobering data point: 37.5 percent of those deaths involved veterans who used Veterans Health Administration services within two years of their passing.

Congresswoman Elaine Luria, D-Va., is pressing VHA leaders for answers.

“Too many of our bravest men and women come home with invisible wounds and scars caused by the trauma they experienced while serving our country,” Luria said in a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs meeting on Monday. “I am deeply concerned by the Committee’s findings that indicate that suicide rates for our youngest veterans are increasing while VA does not have the staff capacity to give them the quality care and attention they deserve. We must uphold our end of the promise by giving VA the resources needed to ensure that we can address this health crisis for our veterans.”

The HVAC hearing, entitled Caring for Veterans in Crisis: Ensuring a Comprehensive Health System Approach, examined the extent to which the VHA adopted a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention.

The hearing explored VHA policies and employee training in identifying veterans at risk of suicide, VHA’s coordination of care for at-risk veterans, the VA police force’s role in identifying to veterans in crisis on VHA facilities, and how effective the VHA is at maintaining a safe and therapeutic environment for veterans experiencing mental health crises.

The review also included a look at staffing challenges at VHA, stemming from long delays in hiring and certifying employees at facilities.

The staffing issue is most pronounced at the Hampton VA Center, where the mental health unit has a personnel vacancy rate of 35.5 percent, three and a half times the national average of 10 percent.

 


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