President Donald Trump signed an executive order offering new health options to military veterans. The health options are an effort to help prevent suicides among service members that have underwent a military divorce or recently separated.
Statistics suggest that 20 veterans commit suicide every day in the United States. Advocates claim that the actual number is much higher than what’s being reported.
The Veterans Affairs and Defense departments have worked to increase outreach programs to veterans that are at higher risk of suicide. The results of the departments’ efforts have been mixed.
Trump’s executive order allows for 60 days in which the Department of Homeland Security and two bureaucracies will be responsible for forming a “seamless mental health care” plan. The plan is geared towards troops that are leaving military services and will be transitioning back into life as a civilian.
The executive order allows for an additional six months, after the agencies establish their plans, to allow for new reforms to be put in place. The plans, not yet completed, may include the expansion of VA health services and more options for private sector care.
Post-service transition programs are also expected to undergo major changes. The programs are expected to have a much bigger emphasis with a key focus on the mental care of newly separated service members.
Trump’s campaign focused heavily on helping veterans. The Trump Administration’s efforts in his first year in office include reforms to the VA system, expanding private sector options and addressing accountability issues for department employees.
The new executive order is meant to provide a quicker timeline for results and to provide additional awareness to the public.
Emergency health services are now available at VA hospitals thanks to the efforts of VA Secretary David Shulkin. Shulkin has made veteran suicide his top priority. He updated the VA’s rules to allow for all veterans with other-than-honorable discharges to seek emergency mental health services.
Research from the Naval Postgraduate School found that during the first year that veterans are out of service that they are three times more likely to commit suicide. The United States Coast Guard is also included in the executive order thanks to the inclusion of the Department of Homeland Security.
“They get out of the military and they have nobody to talk to,” Trump said during the signing. “It’s a very sad situation.”
The new executive order will cost taxpayers $200 million a year to implement. The money will come from the agencies’ current budget. Shulkin notes that only 40% of military members have mental health coverage.
Montana, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah have the highest rate of suicide among military members. Figures from the Department of Veteran Affairs shows that military members in these four states have to drive 70 miles or more to go to a VA medical center.
The suicide rate in these four states was 60 out of 100,000. The national average suicide rate among veterans is 38.4 out of 100,000. Opioid prescriptions to veterans are also a major problem with those that received opioid painkillers twice as likely to die from suicide.