Although the news is often filled with people expressing their disagreement with President Trump, few would disagree with his recent action in supporting veterans. It was one of the veteran affairs topics discussed on the America’s Heroes Group Saturday afternoon radio talk show on March 9, 2019.
On March 5, 2019, Trump signed an Executive Order to launch what he calls his PREVENTS Initiative — “The President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide.” It is funded by $206 million earmarked for VA suicide prevention programming. More specifically, it will provide a number of resources aimed at preventing the high suicide rate among veterans.
A task force will be established to develop a comprehensive plan between all branches of government and the private sector with the goal of improving the veterans’ “quality of life,” said President Trump.
Two other benefits will include equipping every VA medical center with same-day emergency mental health care, and grants to communities, so they too can provide better support locally.
The speech revealed facts about the veteran suicide crisis that many are unaware exists. For one, many veterans suffer from microscopic brain injury caused by exposure to military blasts from weapons and explosive devices. It is very similar to Microscopic CTE, a condition athletes engaged in contact sports suffer, but far worse.
Another important fact is that mental health attention must be given to veterans the first year after they separate from military service because that is when they are at the highest risk for suicide. The research indicates 70 percent of those who commit suicide had not received care from a VA facility in the previous two years.
The president’s speech indicated nearly 6,000 veterans commit suicide per year or 20 veterans commit suicide daily. That is 1.5 times more than non-veteran adults, and the suicide rate for post-9/11 soldiers has risen over the last decade.
Vietnam veteran Cliff Kelley, host of the America’s Heroes Group broadcast and his guests Marc A. Magill, Director, Jesse Brown VA; Dr. Eric Proescher, Navy Veteran PTSD Specialist with OLF/OEF; Hughes S. Turner, SES Executive Director, VA Benefits, and panelists had additional facts to add.
Magill, who is a frequent guest on the show, said he was glad to see the Executive Order, especially, “the same day mental health access.” Magill added, “The VA has had same day mental health access in place several years and over the last year they have doubled their suicide prevention staff, as well as outreach efforts to make veterans aware of the VA services.”
Magill said with respect to the percent of suicides quoted by the president, the number for female veterans is double.
Proescher, a Navy veteran and PTSD Specialist with OLF/OEF is a Post 9/11 expert who agreed with the aggressive work being done at the Jesse Brown VA Hospital. “The VA is well ahead of the general population in recognizing and treating suicide and PTSD related conditions,” said Proescher.
He pointed out that of the 20 veterans who commit suicide each day, 16 of those have never come to a VA center. One segment of those in the high suicide number is veterans who did not receive honorable discharge from the military. In response to the needs of that segment, the VA has expanded services to this segment of the population.
Proescher added, “The VA has pioneered the research and prevention of PTSD and has specialized services for over a decade.”
The new call in Studio number to speak with Cliff Kelley and/or his panelists is 312-374-8130.