Senators: More Must Be Done to Reduce Vet SuicidesStars and Stripes
by Claudia Grisales
28 Sep 2017
WASHINGTON -- A boost in medical providers and resources, greater awareness of mental illness within the military and improving the treatment of exiting service members could help combat a disturbing trend of increased suicides among veterans, lawmakers said Wednesday.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., asks a question concerning suicide data during a Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 27, 2017. (Stars and Stripes/Carlos Bongioanni)
A detailed government report released earlier this month showed suicide risk is 22 percent higher among veterans compared to civilians. For female veterans, that risk was 2.5 times higher, while for male veterans the rate was 19 percent higher, according to a report released Sept. 15 by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
These findings, and others, show Congress and the VA must step up with new efforts to address the national epidemic, lawmakers and government officials said during a Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs hearing held in the wake of the agency report.
"More needs to be done," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. "And more steps need to be taken to address suicide trends among veterans. ...What I am hearing again and again and again is the rates are increasing among vets who lack access."
Craig Bryan, executive director for the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah, said about 70 percent of veterans who have attempted suicide were already diagnosed with a mental illness.
Tester said more funding is needed to address the concerns.
"We need to do a better job of outreach," he said. "It's going to cost money to get health professionals on the ground in urban and rural areas."
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