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Isakson Urges Congress, Department of Veterans Affairs to Work to Reverse the Alarming Rate of Veteran Suicides

By   /   September 20, 2013  /   Comments

September is National Suicide Prevention Month

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today on the Senate floor called on Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs to work to reverse the alarming rate of suicides among our country’s veterans. Isakson, who serves on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, noted that September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

Each day, 22 veterans in the United States commit suicide. That adds up to about 8,000 suicides each year. According to a recent survey by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, as many as 30 percent of its members have considered suicide and 37 percent know a veteran who has committed or attempted suicide. According to estimates, the VA expects to see more than 1 million service members transition from active duty to veteran status in the next few years from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We owe our veterans a big debt for their service to our country. It is critically important that veterans facing a crisis have access to therapy and counseling when they need it most. Mental health needs are an emergency. We must address this issue as quickly as possible,” said Isakson. “I thank the Department Veterans Affairs for the improvements it is making, and I encourage every member of the Senate to continue to support the VA, current veterans as well as the 1 million servicemembers who will be transitioning to veteran status over the next several years.”

On August 7, 2013, Isakson chaired a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee field hearing in Atlanta, Ga., to examine April 2013 reports from the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General detailing mismanagement of inpatient and contracted outpatient mental health programs at the Atlanta VA Medical Center that led to three veteran suicides. The hearing also addressed the steps the VA has taken as well as best practices to improve the mental health care service in all of its facilities.

In his remarks, Isakson cited long wait times, a nationwide shortage of mental health care providers, inflexible appointment times and gaps in the continuum of care as major issues that must be addressed to reduce veteran suicides. According to the VA Inspector General, about one in five veterans referred to outpatient mental health services at the Atlanta VA Medical Center never received an appointment.

The Veterans Crisis Line connects veterans in crisis and their loved ones with Department of Veterans Affairs responders 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. For free, confidential support call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at www.veteranscrisisline.net, or send a text message to 838255.

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