Veteran suicide is not only a VA problem—it is an American problem. Just last month, two Georgia veterans took their own lives in front of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities. Days later, a war hero in Texas decided to commit suicide while waiting in a VA medical center.
Sadly, they are far from the only ones. Roughly 20 active-duty servicemembers and veterans commit suicide every single day. That’s more than 7,000 in a year. Our men and women in uniform are suffering, and it’s clear we are not doing enough to support veterans in crisis.
Earlier this week, the Committee on Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security held a hearing to address this very issue. As Ranking Member of the subcommittee, I helped lead questioning to get to the bottom of this burgeoning epidemic and figure out how we can best support those who proudly wore the uniform. These men and women are patriots and deserve the very best that we can offer them.
The VA’s approach is simply not working, and we must take on the challenge to better connect our veterans to resources and improve our system to better meet the needs of those who dedicated a part of their lives to serve. During the hearing, Representative Mark Green of Tennessee, who is himself a veteran, shined a light on the spiritual and moral guidance veterans may need while completing their demanding duties. He and I discussed how to best ensure that military chaplains are present, available, and trained in how to aid veterans and help prevent suicide, and I would encourage folks to listen to this week’s Freedom Caucus Podcast episode featuring Congressman Green to learn more about this critical issue.
I’m heartened that the Trump Administration has created a task force to ensure that agencies across the federal government are working together to confront this tragedy. However, it’s imperative that Congressional leaders also take aggressive action to curb the growing number of suicides among veterans and members of the Armed Forces. We must approach this matter both clinically and compassionately and discard the practices of the past that have failed to address this national crisis.
Wednesday’s subcommittee hearing was just the first step, and we will be taking many more in the future to turn around this troubling trend. Our veterans deserve to know that they are cared for, supported, and that their lives are worth living.
If you’re a servicemember or veteran in need of assistance, or you know someone who is, I encourage you to reach out. There are specially trained responders ready to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. You can find help by:
- Dialing 1-800-273-8255 and Pressing 1 to talk to someone;
- Sending a text message to 838255 to connect with a VA responder; or
- Starting a confidential online chat session at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
As we celebrate Military Appreciation Month, I can never thank our veterans enough for their service and sacrifice, and I remain focused on tackling the challenges that are facing our Nation’s heroes.
Jody Hice, a Republican from Greensboro, represents a portion of Newton County in Congress. Online: hice.house.gov.