Thursday, January 11, 2018

Trump order aims to reduce suicide among new veterans

Trump before signing the executive order Tuesday
(Associated Press photo by Evan Vucci)
President Trump signed an executive order Jan. 9 to expand mental health care for veterans who are transitioning from military to civilian life in an effort to reduce suicides in that group.

"The order will take effect March 9 and is expected to provide all new veterans with mental-health care for at least a year after they leave the military," Dan Lamothe reports for The Washington Post. "Trump gave the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Veterans Affairs 60 days to iron out details and develop a joint plan, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said in phone call with reporters."

New veterans are particularly at risk of suicide, and 60 percent of the 265,000 service members who transition out of the military each year don't qualify for care until the government establishes that a medical issue is related to their military service. Shulkin told Lamothe that people who have been out of military service for less than a year are 1 1/2 to two times more likely to commit suicide than any other age group. About 20 veterans a day commit suicide.

The full details of the plan aren't yet clear, but will likely include making peer-group therapy sessions available at all VA Whole Health facilities; such sessions are now only available at 18 of the facilities. An anonymous source told Lamothe that the Defense Department will expand the services of its Military OneSource program to allow veterans to access its counseling and 24-hour call line services for a full year after leaving the military instead of the current 180 days. The source said that the Pentagon will look for ways to start the transition process for service members while they are still in uniform.

Shulkin said the program is expected to cost a few hundred million dollars a year from the Defense and VA budgets, but will be paid for with existing money.

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