VA and DoD Join Forces Against Suicide

November 20, 2017

VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin has made suicide prevention his top clinical priority, and he's serious about attacking the problem head-on with the help of his DoD colleagues.

Back in September during suicide prevention month, Shulkin said, “We know that in 2014, an average of 20 veterans a day died in this country from suicide, which is 20 too many.”  

“This is a national public health crisis requiring a national public health approach,” Shulkin continued. “When it comes to preventing veteran suicide, VA can't - and should not - do this alone.”

For several months, the secretary and the VA have pressed full speed ahead to address this national crisis by launching a number of campaigns and outreach events across the country, engaging federal, state, and community partners and veterans' organizations such as MOAA to promote solidarity by embracing a “no wrong door” philosophy to prevent veteran suicide.

This week, VA officials in the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention gave MOAA and other stakeholder groups an update on some of the activities the VA and DoD are jointly pursuing to leverage capacity and realize synergy and efficiencies in their suicide prevention and crisis line programs.

In recent months, the VA has consolidated its mental health and suicide prevention policy and operations into a single office, reporting directly to the secretary.  

Additionally, the Pentagon detailed Dr. Keita Franklin, director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, to the VA for six months to help the VA weave together its vast programs and activities and integrate its programs.

The VA and DoD are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding soon that outlines 10 areas the agencies will focus on as they chart a new direction of collaboration for attacking and eliminating suicides in both departments.

 

“This is exciting news, and MOAA looks forward to working with the secretaries in doing our part to win the war on preventing suicide,” says retired Navy Cmdr. René Campos, MOAA director of government relations for veterans health care.

With the holidays upon us, this can be a particularly difficult time for some servicemembers and veterans and their families and caregivers.

MOAA members can help in a number of ways. Check out these life-saving resources and share them with those in need:

 

  • Veterans Crisis Line. Click here; call (800) 273-8255 and Press 1; chat online; or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
  • VA Medical Center Directory. Contact your local VA medical center main phone line and Press #7 be connected directly with the veterans and military crisis line.
  • White House/VA Veterans' Complaint Hotline. Veterans can call Call (855) 948-2311 to address their specific problems or complaints about VA health care and benefits, 24 hours a day, every day of the week.

 

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