VA Secretary Vows to Combat Veteran Suicide Rate

FILE – Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin speaks to reporters at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 31, 2017. (Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS)

July 16, 2017

OAN Newsroom

VA Secretary David Shulkin vows to combat suicide among veterans.

During an interview aired on Sunday, Shulkin called the current suicide rate unacceptable and said it’s the department’s number one clinical priority.

A 2014 VA study found an average of 20 veterans commit suicide a day.

He says the department is trying new therapies and treatments and is also reaching out to community and academic groups for help.

He pledged to do everything possible to bring the suicide rate to zero.

  • Glenda Hammer

    To bad the person that got our soldiers into the mess in Iraq, and in the Middle East, isn’t the one who commits suicide. GW Bush invaded and attacked a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, and 48 hundred American soldiers are dead because of it.

    Now 16 years later, you still have the mess in Afghanistan, only now it’s worse. Invading Middle East countries using American soldiers, with no plan of how to get out, was to stupid for words.
    Bush and Obama have wasted trillions of taxpayer dollars in the Middle East that should have been spent on saving America.

  • RMCS Ret.

    There is a problem with the VA that I have a hard time wrestling with because a lot of folks need the services, but there’s a good number that abuse the system. Living where I live, I see it every day. The problem is the VA is a free service with a bonus pool attached. The more problems that you can convince them that you have, the larger the bonus. Here in Texas if you can get you’re rating up to 80 percent, you not only reap windfall from the VA, but also from the State in the form of a bunch of freebies and State services. Guys keep going back, time after time, clogging up the system for the people that need it. It doesn’t do much good to point out a problem without a solution, but solution? I have none.

    • Bill Bates

      I am a Viet Nam vet, not retired from the service. I did my time and got out. I have two brothers-in-law that were there when I was and who came back much worse than I did. Injuries, PTSD, Agent Orange, you name it.

      I finished college and bought my first home with VA assistance. I consider myself to have been duly compensated for my time in uniform. I’ve never needed the VA for medical and I’m thankful for that.

      Knowing and talking with vets of my own “vintage” has taught me quite a bit. I can see where there are those who game the system, but by and large, I see men who need the VA, who couldn’t afford the needed kinds of treatment out of pocket.

      What I do, and I hope others will consider doing, is put on a unit insignia cap and go to the VA hospital and visit a few friends. I ask if there is any volunteer work I can do. There rarely is, because our hospital here is pretty well run and patients are pretty well up to date. Many are long term.

      But sometimes just to chat or a game of cribbage. I may not be doing very much, but if enough fellow travelers took a half day to go and be seen and just listen to a few stories, I think a lot of good could come of it.

  • RMCS Ret.

    It the truly want to solve the problem, identification and treatment needs to start before or as soon as the leave the military. The military can do a lot by early identification. Exactly how that would happen, I have no idea. Way above my paygrade. But waiting until they self identify is, in a lot of cases, too late.

    I self medicated by frequent visits to Dr’s Jack and Jim (Daniels and Beam) for a period of about 10 years. Not a good idea. There are better ways.

    • turnipweed

      While in VN, I had a lot of friends who used speed, pain killers, morphine, opium, pot, even heroin. Not to mention getting drunk whenever we were on stand down. My squad was lucky. During my 1 year tour, we only lost 1, and a couple wounded, a few sick, and a couple of serious accidents. I recall having actual shooting combat only 6-7 times, and it was over in a flash. Yet,,, those people who used drugs will go for the “PTSD” diagnosis. What I’m saying is, a solid man will go to war and come back solid. An unbalanced person will return unbalanced, and blame it on the military.

      • Bill Bates

        Nope. False. You had no friends in RVN who were using speed. I don’t know how much of your stuff is made up or erroneous, but that one is.

        And APC is a “pain killer” so yeah – everybody with a headache used it.

        Were you there in ’77? Were you US or RA or something else?

        • turnipweed

          77? No, 70.

          We called liquid amphetamine in a glass vial “speed”, and that was accurate. Never took the stuff, just puffed a little pot.

          I was US, but didn’t associate with some of the other US. They inked peace symbols and “FTA” on their helmets. I am a Patriot, and didn’t like that a bit. Poor morale can get you killed. The RA guys did a lot less drugs and were better balanced.

          The doc dispensed Darvocet, and some of the guys ate them like skittles. They were almost worthless, and actually dangerous because of the acetaminophen content.

          I have plenty, I don’t have to make up anything. Usually around half of our 10 man Infantry squad took hard drugs that I knew of. Their attitudes were mostly poor. They called the serious guys “lifers” just because we were trusted more by the CO and LT, and got promoted over them.

          The all volunteer army is a lot better I’m sure, but there are still undesirables that make it through screening.

  • John C Raby

    From a Korean War Veteran:
    “VA Secretary David Shulkin vows to combat suicide among veterans.” ????
    Want to know how to combat “combat sick suicide veterans”? Put this pencil pushing Shulkin joker IN combat and let HIM walk 20 miles in zero degree temp. while holding his rifle in one hand and holding his guts in his belly with the other hand. Or walking on feet frozen solid only to be amputated at the destination. Or men so crazed with pain that they cry like a baby for their mothers and wives. Or men that can go no further and simply put their rifle barrel under their chin and pull the trigger. And this pinhead wants to “combat” suicide?

    • RMCS Ret.

      John, Korea is a hell hole I am very glad to have missed. Vietnam (2 yrs) was bad enough, but Korea was a whole other story. My fishing buddy is a Korean vet (Army medic) and I get to spend a lot of time listening to his experiences. Nothing opens a guy up like hours of quiet relaxation and a nice day on the lake with somebody willing to listen and can in some ways relate. Korea was a horrific piece of manure that too many people are uninformed about.

  • How are they going to get help when a lot of them can’t get seen? About 4 or 5 years ago I saw a special that focused on one of the major problems…floors and roomfuls of files that were never transferred onto computers. Our military standing in line only to be told, after hours of waiting, their names couldn’t be found. Nothing has changed. I would have donated my time to help input the data on behalf of our veterans.

    • Bill Bates

      Ginette, if you are willing and have time to give, please try again.

      Although there are many VA facilities that are not up to standards, there are many that are and some that excel. Shulkin’s firing last week of 500 VA “employees” for corruption has also fired a shot across the bow of career bureaucrats that are not pulling their weight. It has given heart to those who have been trying but are held back by the inertia of the system. Incompetence and corruption will be ferreted out, but it will take time.

      I have already heard comments from vets who have noticed a positive shift in attitudes at the VA. Even if there is no volunteer work that you can or would want to do, just showing up to listen to a vet who is lost in the system can make a difference.

      The biggest cause of suicides is depression, as you probably know. Depression is largely caused because no one has been listening; that has become endemic at VA.Things will get better, and with people who are willing to help by simply listening, and perhaps advocating for vets, they will get better sooner.

    • turnipweed

      I’m X Army, did a tour in VN. So I love our military.

      Sad fact is, a LOT of military guys are forced into the military by their parents, or even the courts. They commit felonies, usually drug relates, and are given a choice: Felony or military. Their parents will say “Pick 1, military or out on the street”. A few guys join because they have some dark fascination with war, killing, and death. THOSE groups are the guys that commit suicide, not the solid guys. I met some real flakes and weird-O’s during my service. Probably 15-20% were not solid, and were probably not solid when they separated from the Army. I think PTSD only happens to unbalanced people. The Army should screen for them BEFORE they are allowed to join.

    • Bill Jr

      Don’t Know About Other VA’s, But San Diego and LA’s Are Great Places. If You’ve Got Suicidal Ideations You’ll Be Seen and Treated That Day For Sure. And If You Need To Be Kept You’ll Be Kept.

  • GunTotingLib

    Republicans are already hard at work to reduce suicides by veterans, The republicans Recognized the fact that 66% of veteran suicides were carried out by gun,So they took the obvious first step to help suicidal veterans. The republicans in congress just passed a law that will make it easier for veterans suffering from schizophrenia, PTSD, and depression to get guns.

    • turnipweed

      PTSD is a fake Liberal boondoggle. Most “PTSD” is caused by drug abuse.

      • GunTotingLib

        Wow , your a real idiot.

        • turnipweed

          And you either haven’t been there, or can’t handle the truth.

          Look, you’re a grown man, right? You can tell solid people from the unbalanced ones, right?

          So can I. During my tour in the Army and VN, about 15-20% of the soldiers were unbalanced when they got off the bus. I would be willing to bet you the solid ones remain solid after their service, the unbalanced ones remain unbalanced. Bet?

          • GunTotingLib

            I lived on military bases from 1958 to 1978.Been in proximity to the military my entire life. Knew A lot of good men that went to VN. A lot of them came back eff uped and needed help. Most that got it did well, and most that didn’t we lost.

            PTSD is real and to belittle these men as merely drug addicts is unacceptable. And I will vigorously defend them from people like you who attack them. If 20% of the folks we send to war are “unbalanced” than that does not excuse our nation from caring for them when they come home. We failed them in the first place by sending them to war if they were not mentally and physically prepared.

            The VA is not in trouble because of liberals,A certain % of people are incompetent regardless of their ideology The VA is in trouble because we created millions of new vets and were not prepared to care for them when they came home.. We always find the money for war, we seem to have difficulty finding money for the peace.

          • turnipweed

            I am not belittling good men. I’m saying the military needs to vet their recruits more carefully. Ask any active duty military relative if they have met a few that shouldn’t be in the military. They will say “yes”.

            Only the permanently injured should be “cared for”. I did my share, but I don’t want anything in return from my country. It was my privilege to serve. And I especially don’t want to be “cared for”. Our Vets need to be re-assimilated, not kept in a separate system and pitied.

      • RMCS Ret.

        And you my friend are flat out incorrect. PTSD is very real. It hasn’t been recognized as such until recently, but as early as WW-I it was known as “shell shock” regardless of the cause.

        • Bill Bates

          I think I’m hearing from a couple of (a-s-h-l-s) who were never there. My brother-in-law is going to be glad to hear that his PTSD is imaginary. Who knows, maybe the chunks of steel in his eye are imaginary, too.

          • turnipweed

            I’m sure there are a few good, solid men join the military and can’t take the killing and death. That’s why I said “most”.

            You would not believe how many people join the military to escape drugs, felonies, jail, hell I even knew 1 PFC that was forced to join because he fondled a kid.

            The military has about the same percentage of unbalanced people as civilians, and that’s pretty damn high.

            Wishing your BIL the best, there ARE a few who join solid and are harmed by the experience.

          • GunTotingLib

            It has been a couple decades since they allowed people to… “join the military to escape drugs, felonies, jail,”.

          • turnipweed

            2 things: The military doesn’t know what they’re getting, the people don’t have felonies unless they refuse to join the military. It’s not a crime to live in your mom’s basement, though maybe it should be. If they would vet the recruits better. there would be far fewer cases of fake PTSD.

        • turnipweed

          I think it’s real, but I think genuine PTSD is far more uncommon than the VA, the politicians, and the drug addicted Vets want you to know. The VA loves to give Vets disability. Why do you think those on VA disability must regularly report in to the VA hospitals? So they can grow the VA like any other government department. Why do they dispense pain killers and Xanax like candy? They want loyalty and dependence! I could easily get total “VA disability” and a VA check. When I saw that sucky, weird place, I said “no thank you”.

  • turnipweed

    The VA isn’t going to do anything until everyone is fired. The entire VA is a rat’s nest of unionized, politicized, activist Liberals. Not just the higher-ups, but the lowest paper pusher to the managers and directors. They all have to go, or it’s just a waste of time and taxpayer money.

    • GunTotingLib

      Yea, dang these”unionized, politicized, activist Liberals” who took lesser paid jobs from the VA instead of in high paying private healthcare sector to try to care for our american veterans. Conservatives would never make that mistake and leave money on the table by taking those lower paying jobs, they are smarter than that.

      • turnipweed

        VA jobs pay better than the private sector, workers are impossible to fire even if they’re totally incompetent. Conservative applicants aren’t welcome at the VA or any other government bureaucrat job.

        • GunTotingLib

          The medical professionals at the VA make less that their private sector counterparts.

          “Conservative applicants aren’t welcome at the VA or any other government bureaucrat job.”…Really? they are all headed by and ran by republicans.

          Starting wage at the VA for gen Practitioner doctor is $100,575, in private practice one can easily start in the $140 to $160 range.

          • turnipweed

            I was talking about the thousands of Liberal worker bees.

            The VA specializes in marginal doctors and nurses. I knew a dentist that ballooned up to 350 lbs, and his private practice patients abandoned him. The only place that would hire him was the VA. Same with doctors and nurses who are gross or have been sued, and lost their private hospital associations.

          • GunTotingLib

            If only conservative worker bees would take lower pay to work to help veterans, Liberals tend to take lower paid jobs to help people, while conservatives give in to greed and seldom ( not never) take those type of jobs.

          • Bill Bates

            Stop it; you can’t just toss a claim out without some data to back it up.

          • Bill Bates

            Yeah, not just VA; federal workers across the board make too much. Don’t tell a letter carrier I said that, though.

        • Bill Bates

          You are completely uninformed. What causes you to think your opinion is worth anything?

          • turnipweed

            Did a tour in VN, did a tour of the VA system. Almost puked. Never saw so many LGBT and Liberal activists in one place in my life.

            What makes your opinion more worthy than mine?

          • Bill Bates

            For one, the fact that you say workers are impossible to fire when 500 have just been given the boot and the effort to weed will be ongoing under Shulkin. For another, that you say conservative applicants are not welcome. A third is that you claim PTSD is fake, though I see you have now modified your earlier statement. If you had posted your more recent stuff up front I wouldn’t have made any such comment.

            What we seem to have here are experiences based on different locations, so I’ll concede that your statements are correct applying to wherever you are. They don’t fit with my experience. The hospital here is primarily an old soldiers’ home, and the one in Florida I’ve been to is exemplary.

            I have never tried to identify liberal activists on sight, LGBTQ can sometimes be difficult to detect, many whom may be in that set don’t flaunt it where I live. With respect to the VA, I have not seen any connection to those weirdos where I am or have been.

          • turnipweed

            The Liberals began to take over government union jobs in a big way in about about 2010. I toured a VA hospital in 2015. That whole Adams Family mess should be bulldozed and our Vets sent to private local doctors where they can get quality and timely care. They deserve better.

          • Bill Bates

            I think our facility in Leeds is balanced, though people don’t wear badges with their political leanings on them.

            No disagreement about timely care being a problem in a lot of VA facilities. Many VA hospitals do have contracts with local hospitals. Ours here has three.

            Our hospital has a record for seeing established patients in three days or less, specialist care within nine days or less, and referring wherever possible to speed things up.

            They don’t do so well with new patients, though, so the trick is to go there for a check-up and work through the bureaucratic mess before you need serious attention for something.

  • tired of it

    make suicide a crime, so when someone tries to kill themselves,, the cops can be called, and they can come over and shoot you for attempted murder. fixes everything, right?

    • Bill Bates

      tired of you – suicide is a crime

      • tired of it

        oh damn,, u r correct,, my bad there.

  • newsflash

    Thank God! American’s should be humbled by those who continually fight for our freedom and rid the world of tyranny!

  • tired of it

    make it illegal !!! that’s how you get control,,,, right??

    • turnipweed

      YEA!!! Legal drugs, and an end to all war, right?

      Libertarian, right?