On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order instructing the secretaries of defense, homeland security, and veterans affairs to improve access to mental health care for veterans during the first year after their exit from the armed forces. Trump asserted, “We want them to get the highest care and the care that they so richly deserve. It’s something that is a top priority. … They get out of the military and they have nobody to talk to. It’s a very sad situation.”
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin pointed out that the 12-month period after leaving the service was the highest risk-period for suicide, noting that roughly 20 veterans a day commit suicide. He stated that was an “unacceptable number.” Shulkin added, “I’ve identified the issue of preventing veteran suicides as one of our top priorities.” Shulkin said only 40% of military members have mental health coverage.
A Naval Postgraduate School study reported that veterans who have been out of military service between 3 to 12 months are three times more likely to commit suicide than active duty members. Roughly 260,000 service members leave the military each year; the Naval Postgraduate School study stated that roughly 18.5% of veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.
The executive order calls for “seamless access to mental health treatment and suicide prevention resources for transitioning service members.”