VA Secretary calls upon all Americans to help prevent Veteran suicide


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On the final day of the 2019 VA/DoD Suicide Prevention Conference, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie called upon all Americans to work together to prevent suicide among service members and Veterans.

Wilkie’s professional role is to serve our nation’s Veterans. The secretary also has a deep personal connection to the unique sacrifices military members make every day. He is the son of an Army artillery commander and a Veteran himself. Because of this, Wilkie has a sound understanding of the role everyone can play in preventing service member and Veteran suicide.

“America is best when it takes care of those who have taken care of America,” Wilkie said. He addressed conference participants, and all Americans, when illustrating the responsibility everyone has.

“If we do not focus on [suicide prevention]…we will be doing a disservice to those Veterans we care for, and a disservice to the memories of those millions who have come before,” he said. “The most definitive answer that we can give to our fellow Americans and to our Veterans, is that this is a task that we will all conquer together.”

Suicide Prevention Month

Wilkie concluded his visit to Nashville by reminding participants that September is Suicide Prevention Month. The month is an opportunity for Americans to ask themselves how they can Be There for a Veteran.

This September, VA is promoting the #BeThere campaign to raise awareness about suicide prevention. The campaign highlights resources for service members, Veterans, and their loved ones. In September, and all year, simple actions can make a large impact in saving a life. These include sending a text to check in with a Veteran, asking a Veteran to meet for coffee, or organizing an event to bring people together. All of these are examples to show caring toward Veterans.

Each action taken helps people know they belong. Americans can come together to prevent suicide.  For more information about Suicide Prevention Month and ideas for how to #BeThere, visit BeThereForVeterans.com.

For updates from this year’s VA/DoD Suicide Prevention Conference, follow @VeteransHealth on Twitter and Facebook.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. rich bures    

    To: Robert Wilkie, Secretary of Veterans Affairs

    In reference to your speech at the “Suicide Prevention Conference,” it states that you were in the service and might be a Vet also. It says – because of this you have a solid understanding of the role everyone can play in preventing Veteran suicide. No, this is “your” responsibility in creating a (special suicide prevention facility). You also stated that September is suicide awareness month. Now you are asking Nancy Pulossi, a socialist, to step in and solve the problem. You should never deal with politicians, you answer only to the Commander in Chief. He is the one who hired you. Your boss. Last year we lost 7000 Vets to suicide on your watch! You have done nothing to rectify this out of control situation since you were sworn in as S.V.A. So, I have a request. You resign now or create a (special suicide prevention facility). That will require hiring me to run it. I have been studying this with help from staff at my local V.A. (and several top psychiatrists) for 6 years. You also need to create an evaluation test that will be taken right after boot camp and before deploying troops to combat zones. After one year, they will be required to take this test again to determine if they are able to return to combat, then take the test again after 2 years. By doing this you will head off a lot of suicides. If you decide to create a (suicide prevention facility) you will have to have one in each time zone. I understand what my fellow Veterans (enlisted personnel) need to help them past these troubling times. Putting it bluntly, you don’t have a clue! I will come to your office and go over this and all the details. I deal in solutions and facts not just talk.
    But I bet I never hear from you!

  2. hits    

    i think taking away there pill is not the best option

  3. Amber Renee Ciaccio    

    Words cannot describe the disappointment that is plaguing me about the entire focus of this so-called conference. It was showcase for people of “import” to be seen and heard and made to look like they were making a difference when in effect, they are not even close. To helping or the soldiers themselves. I tried diligently to reach the offices that was putting this little shindig together to get people there to at least sit on a panel that were in the trenches and making real differences but was redirected and redirected so many times only to find out the very woman responsible for putting it together would no longer even be in office and could effect no change. I participate in a group called Save a Warrior (www.saw.org) and we are built solely for military, veterans, and first responders for the purpose of suicide prevention. In the seven years of operation, we have only had 2 suicides. That’s better than a 99% success rate. We were even awarded Harvard Brain Trust Award. Our program is completely free to attend with exception of the cost to get the participators there. Yet no one thought to even contact this group to even participate on a panel. Many of you will watch a movie premiere Oct 25 called The Last Full Measure. That movie was dedicated in part to Jake Clark, the founder and president of SAW.

    I encourage you to stop looking at big operations that spend more money on advertising and more time on soldiers. This is where the differences are made.

  4. John Smith    

    How about the VA stop denying claims when a veteran has clear evidence in their military records of a disability incurred in service and is only filing because he/she needs the help? Do your part and give people the benefits they earned by serving their country.

  5. denise lippold    

    i totally agree. i have been denied my ptsd and have been on appeal for 3 years waiting for my day in appeals …they denied me without ever having done a comp and pen exam to begin with. yes i feel like there is no justice. i have nothing and feel unworthy, like a failulre in life and i just wish i could die but dont know how to do it without it hurting during the process other than shooting myself up with hard drugs and hoping it works

  6. Paul N Harris    

    Mr. Wilkie i was diagnosed with PTSD a long time ago I’ve been to over 30 psychiatrists over a period of 40 yrs in VA system and on the Civilian side.I lost so much over that time family,friends parents , and all i wanted to do was just die so i tried alcohol,vehicles, and invincible acts all the drs i went to said i. needed to file for compensation so 2016 hesitant i did ,for the ptsd and several other issues 2 yrs.later i received compensation for hearing loss and was told and denied by VA that my PTSD claim wasn’t read ,they said i wasn’t on any meds ,but case was if they had read my file they would have known.So i filed a NOD and it’s been almost 2 yrs.and still haven’t heard anything, i now still go to psychiatrist every 3 weeks,and take all meds.Hope full that someday this will be settled and compensation given.I just don’t understand why it takes so long if all the proof is there.Thank You

  7. Herbert Laansoo    

    More about the Off-Set. I’ve been told a few times that the DOD returned that money to the VA. I’m not a lawyer, but that sure sounds like collusion to me.

  8. Herbert Laansoo    

    I forgot to mention. Don’t you think that if all those veterans got their money back that would reduce some of the potential suicides?

  9. Herbert Laansoo    

    Dear Secretary Wilkie, my issue is not with the VA today, per say. I do have a few but, they have all been talked about many times. My real point is with the Off-Set (sp). It was before your time but, I’m sure you are aware of it. This applies to thousands of veterans. I’ll just talk about myself. I retired in 1989, was evaluated by VA, received my disability %. Not sure of the time-line between then and when the Off-Set started. When it did, the DOD deducted $ for $ out of my retirement pay what the VA paid me. How?, when? & why? did this happen? AND will we (thousands and thousands of retired veterans) ever get our money back? I know it has been phased out now and swept under the proverbial rug.

  10. Jerry Dozer    

    Ya V A messed up. Some vets really need help. Some get turned down. I know a ver, served state side,now at 100%. this vet mow yards, removes snow, lifts 200#. The V A has the story can’t walk too far, can’t sit too long, can\t lift too much, and so on. I call it scam. This vet does not need $44,000 tax free money, but the V A thinkd he needs it. I am sick, ashamed of this country, of the V A. just sick

  11. Joseph Sessa    

    I truly would like to know why since 2013 I have had such a difficult time identifying anyone in authority concerning the suicide rate and specifically as a result of Veterans’ PTSD. I embarked on a quest in 2013 and to do so I completely made a 180 in my career path to become a licensed mental health counselor to help thee, vets. The social workers during the last Presidency managed to take control of who they would let into their club with the VA and who they would make it extremely difficult for. Seems we should all be moving in the same direction. I was happy to hear President Trump at least mentioned this concern about Veterans’ and the high rate of 22 suicides per day a couple months back but unfortunately the rate of 22 per day. This is the same number when I began my Masters’ program to be a counselor. After realizing I was fighting an uphill battle trying to gain access even though I did this program through the Vocational Rehabilitation Program as a Disabled Veteran. I learned how I could potentially achieve my goal or so I thought. I began a doctoral program for professional counseling and psychology and my classmate on the same quest began a clinical doctoral program for psychology. We can both see the light at the end of the tunnel while we both are in or dissertation phase and once graduated bt all rights be able to fill the many sots requiring a Ph.D. so we can continue to help our fellow veterans and begin the reduction of suicide. Why this rant? No one listens to us but they do stand on podiums claiming all they will be or are doing. Okay, then why has the rate of 22 suicides per day not moving down? Thank you.

  12. Gary Mankus    

    I truly believe that the #1 reason for Veteran suicides, is caused by having to deal with the VA! Veterans are talked down to, like we are idiots. We spend most of our days on hold, waiting to speak to a VA representative. It takes us months and months to file a claim, only to be rejected, and then the lengthy appeals process starts. I have seen many Brothers and Sisters die while waiting for their appeals to even be heard. If you REALLY want to do something about Veteran Suicide, take care of the problems at the VA, that Veterans have to deal with on a daily basis. If a VA employee deserves to be disciplined, FIRE THEM!!! Don’t just sweep the problem under the rug, by transferring the VA employees to another VA or department!

  13. Alan Wells    

    Asking the general public to help veterans, is a pathetic attempt by the VA to avoid accountability. There is no accountability in the VA system. The system is actually programed to discourage VA health care providers from giving care. Doctors and receptionists, intentionally try to suggest appointments that are as far into the future as possible. Many times it has been subtly implied, that there is no reason for me to ever make a follow up appointment. If a veteran gives up, and stops going to the VA, then it’s probably assumed that the issue has been solved, when in reality it was a failure of the VA system.
    Most people try to get help when there is something wrong. But when a person tries to get help, and what is offered doesn’t match the problem, then the person trying to get help will feel that the are being disrespected, ignored, and discounted. Then they will feel that they have no value; that they are not being “listened to”, and that the system is not working. The health care system is pathetically inadequate at diagnosing what the real cause of the problem is. People are misdiagnosed and diagnosed to late. The computer system at the VA controls what doctors are able to do. Unless the doctor enters exactly what the computer system requires, then a veteran will NOT get any further care. What the management of the VA publicly states is absolutely meaningless. Whoever sets the rules for care, and programs the computer system, decides what level of care a veteran gets. The accounting office, the administration, and the people who implemented the computer system totally dictate what the doctors, nurses, receptionists can and can not do. There is no such thing as overriding the computer system. A patient would probably literally die, before anyone would override what the VA computer system is telling them to do.

  14. Aristotle Geronimo Pangan    

    Is it true america is best when it takes care of those who have taken care of america or its only propaganda? Atleast thats what thev.a. Secretary says. How about those americans who choose to reside in other country like in the philippines. We serve too but how come we didn’t get the same treatment or benefits compare to those who resides in the u.s.? That i don’t really understand, can someone or somebody brought this tonthe attention of the v.a. secretary? It contradicts on what he said even on the v.a.’s vision and mission. Because to me its all craps what they where saying.

    1. Oscar Gonzalez    

      Oh my gosh! You are so right. We (me) as Veterans receive this type of treatrment the majority of the time.

  15. Danny K. Dugan    

    I have been fighting the VA since 1971 (Agent Orange) and been stone walled at every turn. The government has covered up the truth about the use of herbicides and areas used.

    1. Larrymurrell    

      I feel you southeast Asia was disguised or renamed tactical herbicides humm used in peacetime perimeters and end of runways and other secured areas by century and k-9 units ijs alert facilities as well, their own admittance? humm

  16. Nicholas Richards    

    First of all Mr. Secretary I don’t think you know what the heck you are talking about America doesn’t care about there Veterans’s. I say this because to get my 5013c equine therapy ranch started I have to reach out to friends overseas because every American or American company has told me $90-250 an hour to help me with finishing up my donor presentation. I already have they layout and design just needed a few finishing touches. Second of all have any of those who are treating ptsd ever thought that the extinction method you are using is just torturing them and causeing many veterans to commit suicide. It took me over 9 years to get my benefits and then after I got in argument with psychiatrist they tried to take them.

  17. Elenna VanMeter    

    I’ve seen my Veteran do it in front of me…they denied him his medications he needed and now he is gone. Do you think they cared?? NOPE…I begged his shrink to allow him to see outside care 2 months before he did it. I told Dr. Kim fro Sepulveda VA that he doesn’t trust the VA ANd he is not telling you anything you need to hear…his response was I was being over protective and that basically he can see Jason more. Like I said what good will that do when he doesn’t trust you to begin with. Over a week later when he got back fro his vacation, I told him I told you so. He told me I never believed he would do it. I said this is WHY I begged you to let him see VSO or someone on the outside and I walked away.

  18. William H Stewart    

    Bring back the Pharmacologist and require their input in pre-op cases where the patient is on multiple medications particularly those who are being treated for Parkinson’s, PTSD, neuropathy, chronic pain, etc. that may be susceptible to interactions that may result from post op medications associated with the surgical condition and the pain meds. It would be a big plus to make sure that staff knows the difference between bringing a bag full of your pills and letting a pharmacists look at them and meeting with a trained graduate Pharmacologist. When I first started coming to the V A it was standard procedure to meet with one if you were taking a certain amount of different drugs.
    Thank you

  19. Donnelly Miller    

    Many factors contribute to suicide: loneliness, financial difficulty, lack of purpose, feelings of unworthiness, just to name a few. I know, I have been experiencing these and other factors more profoundly the past couple of years. I have a proposal that may potentially reduce veteran suicide: implement a comprehensive career guidance and career coaching program to all veterans heading into college and prior to utilizing any military education benefits. Nothing is worse than being pressured to have to choose a major on short notice and to make it worse, choose the wrong major that leads to nearly 100k in student loan debt yet cannot even make above the poverty level. All this is worse knowing that if I knew my disability was going to make finding work with my current degree overly challenging to nearly impossible, I would have gotten career guidance and most likely would have chosen computer science as that has been suggested as a great career for me by my counselor and career counseling I have gotten the past year. Not having any guidance, I sunk myself into major debt for a nearly useless masters degree in exercise science constantly being coaxed that I would be making good money with a good work-life-balance career by faculty members who do not seem to care. Not so, I have struggled financially which as lead to me spending numerous holiday season’s alone and away from family. I live in a 217 square foot apartment (dorm like setting with three other roommates over half my age), I battle constant loneliness, I have no friends, and I am tens of thousands of dollars in debt. I kick myself knowing that if I had gotten some serious career counseling and proper guidance prior to using my GI Bill and had chosen computer science with an emphasis on machine learning. I would be in a much better spot in life and most likely would not have a worsening disability due to my current life circumstances exasperating my disability.

    Want to reduce or maybe even stop veteran suicide?? Leave no veteran behind when it comes to veterans looking for work and finding a rewarding career that can lead to a healthy work-life balance. Implement a program that includes career counseling, and guidance on choosing a proper major and make it so that any veteran who chooses a major that leads to jobs that are in high demand should be GUARANTEED a job within 6 months after graduation. Such program should also include help with writing out a resume and interview skills and practice. A healthy career suited to the veteran’s aptitudes, strengths, and interests may not be a cure all, but it just may help a veteran find purpose in life.

  20. Jerry Middleton    

    “America is best when it takes care of those who have taken care of America,” Wilkie said

    Really Mr. Wilkie? Then answer the questions that veterans have asked you. Like:
    Why does it take only mere months to pass and implement a tax cut for millionaires and billionaires, but it takes a decade to correct a law that unconstitutional ( it discriminates against a group of people) And the law, even though it has finally passed, STILL HAS NOT BEEN IMPLEMENTED. I’m referring to the caregiver program for pre-9/11 veterans.

    Why are veterans receiving bills from doctors outside and inside the VA even when they are told they have been approved for care?

    I have many other questions but it won’t matter cause you won’t answer anyway #wilkie

  21. Tom Carpenter    

    Went to a Va pain lady. ( I’ve had back pain since Feb. 76 due to falling down a telephone pole) after a five min exam she said pains in my brain just retrain your brain. How bout she live in my body for a day and then tell me that. No pain med help hav to pay for outside doc now. Go figure

  22. Paul Richard Myers    

    I was so dissapointed when I was denied a claim for hearing loss, I know I lost my hearing in the service. But you have to be
    able to prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. How can I prove that when I got out of the service I was going thru a lot of physicals and was told that if you don’t pass this hearing test you will stay in korea until you do. How can I prove that this fellow soldier told me this. There is no way. Put a m-14 next to your ear without any ear protection ( this is true ) and fire it several times. Your ears will ring forever, and you will lose your hearing. As I did mine. Paul R. Myers

  23. Meritt Hutton    

    Do you really want to stop veteran suicides? Order the VBA to stop denying claims and streamline the appeal process.

    1. B Wenz    

      Right on. Like acknowledging the additional disease caused by agent orange recently cited by the IOM. When it comes to compensation the VA administration is a pack of first class phonies. The responsible decision making timeline promised by the Secretary has come and gone but he’s still cashing a paycheck.

    2. Elenna VanMeter    

      I agree its like F U …you served we don’t care

  24. Barbara Grizzle    

    Quite denying that there is a Camp LeJuene Water Contamination and give them their benifits and compensation so that maybe they could get the help they need for cancer, infertility (women) and Parkinson etc.

    1. Danny K. Dugan    

      Merritt Hutton, the VBA is a joke. Either totally incompetent or deliberately dragging their feet. I know veterans that have given up the fight because they are so frustrated with the process. It was designed to do exactly what it was intended to do.

  25. Theresa Huseman    

    Give them back their pain meds. Cruel and inhumane

    1. Elenna VanMeter    

      Yup they took away the pill that stabilized my husband and now he is dead.

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