There’s been a lot of activity centered around veteran suicide lately. Many people are trying to attack the issue of long wait times at the VA and the ungodly high number of suicides that affect the veteran community at a unique and unprecedented rate. Now, we’re getting into actually fixing the problem.


What’s Been Proposed

Congressman Dave Loesback and Congressman Steve Stivers have introduced a bill that will cut through any excuse. It’s exactly the sort of thing that we’ve needed all along — it’s comprehensive, it’s got teeth and it’s bipartisan.

This is absolutely the sort of effort that we need to be praising and encouraging. In the world of Veterans Affairs, we’re in bad need of a win. There’s been no end to people pointing out the problems and using them as a political football, but now we’re seeing some success at passing solutions.

Loesback noted in a statement that the purpose of the bill, titled the Never Again Act, “if a veteran asks for mental health care from the VA, they will get it.” So what does this mean in practice?


The Bill’s Objective

This bill is meant to target situations where veterans have gone to various VA medical centers for help only to be turned away — sometimes denying that the individual was even a veteran. Often times, these denials of treatment end up with that same veteran ending their life. It goes without saying, they deserve better.

The proposed law — which still has to pass both houses and be signed by the President — would make it mandatory for VA hospitals to provide psychiatric care to any veteran enrolled in the system, only turning patients down when the hospital is lacking the proper facilities due to overcrowding. In instances where there are not enough beds available, doctors will be required to refer veterans to non-VA facilities. No one gets left out in the cold.


Getting Support

It goes without saying that any veteran should be able to turn to a fellow veteran or active service member when in need. Make sure that you’re looking out for one another. If someone comes to you for help, just listen. But also, don’t discourage them from getting the help that they need. All too often, people try to attack these issues on their own — and we’ve seen how disastrous that can be. But there are additional reasons to go in to seek help from the VA.

For one, it’s essential that policy-makers in Washington have an accurate count. Now, we all know that they’re perfectly capable of clogging the system and burying the numbers as we’ve seen under former VA Secretaries, but the fact still remains that until congress gets accurate and actionable numbers from the VA, it will continue to go underfunded. And from our perspective here, we’re not concerned with “how” the VA fixes this problem — by privatization, better funding or anything in between — we simply are concerned that it happens.

Additionally, PTSD and other mental health issues count towards your disability rating under US law. Most veterans are pretty selfless people. As such, there’s often an attitude of “other people need it more than me,” so they don’t bother to get into the system. VA Disability is there to ensure that your sacrifice is in some manner compensated — you put your body and mind through hell for your country, so let your country give you the benefits you’ve earned. But if you don’t go through the VA’s process, you cannot get compensated.

Furthermore, the VA has deep resources or can direct you to other centers which can sometimes offer additional assistance, through organizations and charities which support veterans. The key is that if there’s an issue you speak up. Ultimately, in country it comes down to one another to get out alive. Unfortunately, it looks like this might be the case in the aftermath as well. While we’re waiting on the VA to sort itself out, we can be the stopgap measure. We can look out for one another. We can make the difference and ensure that not one more comrade-in-arms takes their life.

Here are some resources if you or someone you know needs some help, or if you would like to get involved and get your hands dirty with solving this problem for good!

22 Until None – Nine Line’s Partner in the fight to end of Veteran Suicide, this non-profit receives a portion of every 22 a Day sale.

22 Kill

Lift for the 22

Stop Soldier Suicide

Mission 22

And if you’re interested, show your support and help to raise awareness of the issue of veteran suicide with our 22-a-day clothing line. It’s a great way to kick off a conversation and spread the word about this tragedy that affects us all.

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