Candidates’ PR Departments Respond to Suicide Question in Writing, but Will Romney Confront Obama During Live Debate on the More Than 22,000 Veterans Who Have Killed Themselves on the President’s Watch?
by Leo Shane III
Stars & Stripes, Oct. 15, 2012
How would Gov. Romney address the issue of veterans suicides? What is to blame for the continued rise in the number of troops/veterans who are taking their own lives?
With 18 veterans and service members a day taking their own lives, Gov. Romney recognizes that mental health is a crisis that must be dealt with immediately. He would double the number of mental health care providers overnight by opening the military’s Tricare network to veterans. If a distressed veteran cannot be seen by a qualified mental health provider in a timely fashion, they will be allowed to go to a Tricare facility at the VA’s expense.
Looking forward, how will President Obama address the issue of veterans suicides? What is to blame for the continued rise in the number of troops/veterans who are taking their own lives?
President Obama is committed to helping our veterans recover from the wounds of war, both seen and unseen. At his direction, the VA has made mental health services for veterans a top priority. Last year, The VA provided specialty mental health services to 1.3 million veterans. Since 2009, the VA has increased the mental health care budget by 39 percent and hired more than 3,500 mental health professionals. To meet this challenge, the VA has launched an effort to hire an additional 1,600 mental health professionals to serve Veterans by June 2013.
In August, President Obama signed an executive order directing the expansion of suicide prevention strategies and to take steps to meet the growing demand for mental health and substance abuse services available to veterans, service member, and military families. This order directed the VA to increase its crisis line capacity by 50% by the end of next year, ensure that any veteran identifying him or herself as being in crisis connects with a trained mental health worker within 24 hours, and work with the Department of Defense to develop a 12 month suicide prevention campaign. Additionally the VA will hire 800 peer-to-peer support counselors to empower veterans to support other veterans.
The VA has also enhanced services by integrating mental health care into the primary care setting, developing an extensive suicide prevention program, and increasing the number of Veterans Readjustment Counseling Centers (Vet Centers). We have increased the number of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) programs to meet the special needs of veterans with co-occurring PTSD and substance use disorders, other mental health problems, and military sexual trauma. Today, every VA medical center provides services for veterans suffering from PTSD. President Obama also announced new rules making it easier for veterans coping with effects of PTSD to get the benefits they need by significantly reducing documentation requirements.
Still, there is much more work to do. President Obama is determined to expand the capacity of our mental health provider base, increase timely access to care, improve the quality of the care being provided, better synchronize the research surrounding PTSD and TBI, and reduce the stigma affiliated with seeking mental health services.
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Filed under: Resources Tagged: | 2012 Presidential Debate Questions, Mental Health, Military Suicide, Mitt Romney VA Military Veterans Suicide Prevention Plan, President Obama VA Military Veterans Suicide Prevention Plan, Suicide prevention, Traumatic brain injury TBI, VA Mental Health Care Staff Shortages, VA secretary Eric Shinseki, Veterans Affairs