Trump administration assures Buchanan that veteran suicide prevention top priority

The Trump Administration said it was committed to tackling the rising number of veteran suicides in the United States, in response to a letter U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) sent to the president that urged more funding be directed to suicide prevention in the military.

The suicide rate among veterans is roughly double that of the general population, Rep. Buchanan’s office noted, and has increased among younger veterans who served during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Twenty veterans commit suicide each day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

David Carroll, the director of the VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, told Rep. Buchanan in response to his March letter that “suicide prevention is the top clinical priority for VA. We must approach this matter compassionately and clinically and discard the practices of the past that failed to address this national tragedy.”

Rep. Buchanan also said that Assistant Secretary of Defense James Stewart told him that his department is working to “provide seamless access to mental health care, and suicide prevention resources for transitioning service members during the year following discharge, separation, or retirement.”

The congressman, who represents more than 88,000 veterans in southwest Florida, said he appreciated the administration’s commitment to preventing veteran suicides.

“It is unacceptable that there have been tragic shortcomings by the VA to get veterans the treatment they need and deserve. The administration needs to follow through with meaningful action to support our nation’s veterans,” Rep. Buchanan said on April 24.

Following Buchanan sending his letter to the president, the Trump Administration’s March budget proposal called for an increase of more than $400 million in mental health funding at the VA, including an additional $70 million for suicide prevention treatment and outreach.