VA's new policy tries to stop veteran suicides

In the FOX 7 Care Force, we're looking at perhaps the most important issue facing veterans, suicide.

For years now, the average has been around 17 to 20 veteran suicides a day. Recently, the VA started a new policy to try and stop this constant trend.

Jonathan Elliott with the Dept. of Veterans Affairs joined FOX 7 Austin's Mike Warren to discuss.

MIKE WARREN: What's the new policy?

JONATHAN ELLIOT: It's really about opening up access for veterans in crisis. The goal is to get vets in quicker, and opening access to community hospitals and local VA's. So vets can come in and get care quick and get linked up with the right resources to move forward.

MIKE WARREN: How do vets take advantage?

JONATHAN ELLIOT: A couple options, going to the nearest ER immediately, or contacting the veteran's crisis line which is 988, option 1. But really it's opening access and gets vets quickly seen and removing barriers.

MIKE WARREN: And this service is free of charge?


MIKE WARREN: Can spouses take advantage on behalf of a vet?

JONATHAN ELLIOT: With spouses, it's getting the vet in as quickly as possible to the local ER, or contact the veteran's crisis line 988, option 1.

MIKE WARREN: How is this policy different from what was before?

JONATHAN ELLIOT: There was always confusion over of a veteran was in the system. This removes the barrier and gets them in and seen, and they navigate from there.

MIKE WARREN: What's the response so far?

JONATHAN ELLIOT: I haven't seen a lot of traction yet because it's only been about a month. A big thing is getting education out there that can get in those crisis situations to make sure we are moving them quickly for initial reaction. As a vet myself, knowing and understanding it's about getting help first, and then dealing with everything afterward because we don't want to lose another veteran.