It is Veterans Day, and blogs, Facebook Posts, storefronts, and many other places like to wave flags, talk about sacrifices made by our Veterans (very true), and offer a word of “thanks” for their service. It is fleeting… and while true in spirit (well, perhaps except for the storefronts which is more about exploiting it for a profit), is for all intents and purposes useless.
Last year I focused on the Veterans Appropriations Bill, which are frequently (23 out of 28 years) late and/or severely underfunded. This year, in keeping with my #Movember theme (conveniently for me), and because it is an issue that needs to be addressed, this year the focus is on Mental Health.
Since 2001, nearly 1.2 million veterans have obtained VA health care services, with more than 57 percent receiving a mental health diagnosis which includes PTSD, depression disorders, as well as alcohol and drug dependence. Between 2005 and 2014, the number of veterans who received mental health care from VA grew by 71 percent, and naturally then mental health visits have increased from 10.5 million in 2005 to 19.6 million in 2014 or approximately 87 percent. Recent data also reveals the suicide rate of women veterans is nearly six times higher than women in general; for women ages 18-29, the risk is even higher, at nearly 12 times the rate of women in general. This continued growth has posed challenges for the VA in terms of equipment and personnel resources, it has caused delays in getting treatment, and makes it difficult to keep Veterans in treatment even once they do get in.
So what to do. Well, the first is the same as last year. Reach out to your representatives and demand that they not only approve and release the money intended for the Veterans Appropriations, but to ensure there is enough there for the VA to do what it needs to do to help these Veterans.
While you are speaking with them, also ask your representatives to support H.R. 2915. This bill, introduced by Julia Brownley (D-CA), is also known as the Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act. If enacted, this bill would identify mental health and suicide prevention programs that are the most effective with the best outcomes among women veterans at risk. The bill would require VA to report the results of this analysis to the Congressional Veterans’ Committees.
So, this year, rather than putting up a picture and saying thanks, take a few minutes, step up, and do something to show our Veterans you really do appreciate the sacrifices they make.