Veterans Affairs expands access for people experiencing suicidal crisis
Veterans experiencing an acute suicidal crisis can receive free emergency care at any Veterans Affairs or non-VA facility, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced this month.
The care for eligible veterans includes free treatment for in-patient care for up to 30 days and outpatient care for up to 90 days. According to the VA, eligible veterans include those who were discharged or released from active duty after more than two years of active service under conditions other than dishonorable.
“Veterans in suicidal crisis can now receive the free, world-class emergency health care they deserve — no matter where they need it, when they need it, or whether they’re enrolled in VA care,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said. “This expansion of care will save Veterans’ lives, and there’s nothing more important than that.”
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The policy, which is in the Veterans Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment (COMPACT) Act of 2020, went into effect Jan. 17.
The VA estimates the policy will increase access to suicide care for up to 9 million veterans currently not enrolled in the VA.
The policy is also available to former service members, including Reservists, “who served more than 100 days under a combat exclusion or in support of a contingency operation” and veterans who were victims of physical or sexual assault, or sexual harassment.
According to VA data, 6,146 veteran suicide deaths were reported in 2020, which was 343 fewer than in 2019.
In North Carolina, there were 199 veteran suicides in 2020; while Texas had the most veteran suicides that year at 526, followed by 493 in Florida; 439 in California; 240 in Pennsylvania; 230 in Ohio and 200 in Arizona.
According to the VA, the policy will provide, pay for or reimburse for treatment of emergency suicide care, transportation costs and follow-up care.
Officials will also make “appropriate referrals for care following the period of emergency suicide care,” and determine if the veteran is eligible for other VA services or benefits.
VA officials said the policy is part of the VA’s 10-year National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide and the Biden-Harris administration’s plan for Reducing Military and Veteran Suicide.
In the plan that was released in 2021, President Joe Biden wrote that about 17 veterans die by suicide daily, but through advances in science, medicine, and public health, officials have learned that ensuring firearms are safely stored and expanding access to suicide hotlines and mental health providers help prevent suicide.
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During remarks he made on March 8, Biden said his administration was implementing the plan to decrease suicide rates among veterans and service members.
“It’s an absolute tragedy that demands not only a whole-of-government approach but a whole-of-country working together to deal with this issue,” Biden said.
He encouraged veterans to ask for what they need.
"We owe you,” he said.
Individuals struggling with suicidal ideations can call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or chat at 988Lifeline.org.
Staff writer Rachael Riley can be reached at email@example.com or 910-486-3528.
This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Veterans experiencing suicidal crisis can now receive free care