“I think often people assume that all veterans come to the VA health system for care, but they don't. The minority of veterans come to the VA for care,” John McCarthy, director of data and surveillance at the VA's Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, told The National.
He said it was “discouraging to see rates increase year after year” but added that he believes the department “has done a tremendous job with suicide prevention initiatives”.
In January, the VA expanded healthcare access for veterans in acute suicidal crises. Now, veterans can go to any VA or external healthcare facility for emergency care “at no cost”, whether or not they are enrolled in the system.
“The VA wants to prevent suicide for all veterans, not just those in the VA. So this is a really exciting development,” Dr. McCarthy said.