President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday aimed at expanding mental-health care for transitioning veterans as they leave the military, in an effort to reduce suicides in a group that is considered particularly at risk. 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.
"Some veterans have more difficulty with this than others, and we see this expansion of mental health care and suicide prevention programs to be part of an important safety net".
"We want them to get the highest care and the care that they so richly deserve, and I've been working very hard on that with [VA Secretary David J. Shulkin] and with everybody". He says this administration needs to focus on a more comprehensive approach to fixing issues facing veterans rather than executive orders. "They're the people we should be focusing on". The plans could include expanded Veterans Affairs health services for the almost 265,000 service members who transition out of the military each year, extended access to Defense Department resources, greater availability for care in the private sector or a combination of those options. An estimated 20 US veterans die by suicide each day, and President Trump a year ago tasked incoming VA Secretary David Shulkin with getting that number to zero.
Veterans who leave the service with "bad paper" discharges - disciplinary separations that can bar recipients from collecting VA education, disability, and medical benefits - wouldn't qualify for new benefits under the executive order.
- Expand peer community outreach and group sessions in the VA Whole Health initiative from 18 Whole Health flagship facilities to all facilities.
This includes suicide prevention services and a 24-hour veterans' hotline.
The new order will cost about $200 million year to implement, money that will be diverted from the agencies' current budgets, a senior administration official said.
The Pentagon also will look for ways to start the transition process for service members earlier during their time in uniform, the official said.
If you're thinking about suicide, are anxious about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States. His focus is on eliminating the statistic showing 20 veteran suicides every day.