50,000 Veterans Use New Veterans Affairs Suicide Help ProgramThe new Department of Veterans Affairs program has provided nearly 50,000 veterans and former service members free emergency suicide prevention care in 2023. The policy offered coverage for emergency room care, inpatient or crisis residential care for up to 30 days, and outpatient care for up to 90 days. 

New Veterans Affairs Program

The VA announced on Wednesday, January 17th, 2024, that 49,714 veterans took advantage of the no-cost care policy since it was implemented last January. It has amounted to more than $64 million in saved healthcare costs. Veterans Affairs has stated its top priority is ending veteran suicide. 

“There is nothing more important to VA than preventing veteran suicide — and this expansion of no-cost care has likely saved thousands of lives this year,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in an official statement. “We want all veterans to know they can get the care they need, when they need it, no matter where they are.”

Veteran Suicide Study

Veteran suicide is an important issue. A 2021 Brown University study estimated that more than 30,000 veterans of post-9/11 conflicts have taken their own life. That number is more than four times the number of U.S. military personnel killed at the time of those conflicts. 

Unfortunately, the veteran suicide rate is higher than the rate of the general U.S. public. According to a 2023 report by the Department of Veterans Affairs, in 2021 the suicide rate for veterans was 71.8 percent higher than non-veterans. The same report discovered that 6,392 veterans took their own lives in 2021, which means an average of 17 veterans commit suicide every day. 

President Biden’s New Strategy

President Biden’s administration released a new national strategy to reduce veteran suicide, calling it a “public health and national security crisis” in November 2021. 

“I’ve often said that we have only one truly sacred obligation as Americans—to prepare and properly equip our women and men in uniform when we send them into harm’s way, and to care for them and their families when they return,” President Biden stated. “Yet for too many who are serving or have served, we are falling short.”

The suicide rate among veterans is an important issue that needs more support and awareness. It is important to note, that veterans apart of the VA and non-VA can now go to any VA or non-VA emergency room for emergent suicidal care. Transportation costs are also covered by the VA.

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or a suicidal crisis, please ask for help. You are not in this alone. You can reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988.