While many men and women have lost their lives on foreign soil while serving, too many lives have been lost back home when the demons of the past follow them. We cannot stop making every effort as a nation to protect our veterans once they return. We must serve those who have served us. This topic hits especially hard for me, as I lost a friend to veteran suicide in 2014.
In his funding plan for the 2021 fiscal year, President Trump proposed a 13 percent increase for VA spending, with a 32 percent boost for veterans suicide prevention programs. This is a great step towards saving lives, however there are gaping holes in his approach. One of which is the 18,000 positions eliminated this year at VA hospitals around the country. The cuts affected uniformed doctors, nurses, dentists, medics, technicians and support staff. Also, 50 military health facilities will stop seeing non-active duty patients, downsize or close altogether. (This part of the plan was delayed as a result of COVID-19.)
With these closures in place, as part of the VA Mission Act, veterans would use private sector doctors. In theory, I get it. With long waitlists at VAs, there are more options under this act. However, even great civilian doctors cannot fully understand the specific type of PTSD, depression and anxiety our veterans are dealing with unless they themselves experienced it. While I myself live with both depression and anxiety, I do not pretend to even begin to know the hell some service members experience.
So what is the answer? Wouldn’t it be easy if there was one simple solution? However, there isn’t. What I propose is an increase in educating our active duty military on warning signs for suicide not only from themselves, but in their military brothers and sisters. Educating the family members of those who serve, whether it be a spouse or parent, would help them be prepared for what struggles might appear. I also think there should be therapy required for those returning from conflict. Being proactive and teaching our vets how to cope before they are so deep in the blackhole that they can’t find their way out would drastically reduce the number of suicides we see in America’s veterans.
One more veteran death is too many. What better way to memorialize those lives already lost than by protecting the veterans still with us today.