In 2016, the VA said that it was determined to reverse the rising suicide rate of veterans. During a summit in Washington, VA officials spoke about big plans to:
- Improve mental health services by including same-day evaluations and access to medical care for veterans in need of immediate aid.
- Establish three telehealth hubs for mental health treatment and offer extra resources to the VA suicide prevention office.
- Conduct numerous suicide studies, including research on how deployment and combat exposure in Iraq and Afghanistan impacts veterans.
Fast-forward two years later and it seems less, not more, is being done to reduce or prevent the suicide rate among veterans.
Who is at fault?
According to a Government Accountability Office Report, the blame lies on, “bureaucratic confusion and vacancies in key posts.” Ultimately, it seems that the lack of focus on reducing the suicide rate among veterans can be traced back to a few key issues:
- The department’s top management was in total disarray — The suicide prevention effort requires strong leadership, something that is currently not present. Meetings to discuss how to prevent the suicide rate are routinely canceled and millions of dollars budgeted for suicide prevention remain unspent. Furthermore, advertisements on TV and the radio that were once displayed in homes across the country are practically gone.
- Incompetence —After the director of the agency’s suicide prevention office, Dr. Caitlin Thompson, left, the office stagnated and managed to spend a meager $57,000 of $6.2 million media budget. Social media presence on suicide prevention dropped substantially. The replacement director was often away from the office and the ball was dropped.
- Layovers — The Former secretary of Veteran Affairs, Dr, David J. Shulkin, explained that the blame lay at least partially on the resignation of many longtime employees. It seems the constant turnover of positions within the department has caused progress to grind to a halt.
Every day, approximately 20 veterans commit suicide. This is unacceptable and preventable. The VA needs to get its act together and do more to protect the lives of our veterans.
Skilled veteran affairs lawyers help you take action
The Bertling Law Group is committed to supporting veterans in Santa Barbara, California and across the country. To find out more about our services or to schedule a free consultation to discuss your claim, contact us at 844-295-7558.