(CNN) — Starting Tuesday, US military veterans in an “acute suicide crisis” can receive free treatment, including inpatient care for up to 30 days and outpatient care for up to 90 days.
The extended care was announced by the Department of Veterans Affairs on Friday and is intended to “prevent veteran suicide by guaranteeing veterans free, first-class care in times of crisis.” Veterans seeking that care can go to any VA or non-VA health care facility, the press release said, and they don’t have to be enrolled in the VA system to receive care.
“Veterans in suicidal crises can now get the free, world-class emergency medical care they deserve — no matter where they need it, when they need it, or whether they are enrolled in VA care,” VA Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough said in the Publication. “This expansion of care will save the lives of veterans and there is nothing more important than that.”
The new policy states that veterans discharged after more than two years of service under conditions other than dishonorable are entitled to care, which is either paid for or reimbursed by the VA.
The policy also applies to former soldiers, including those in the reserves who have served “more than 100 days under a combat expulsion or in support of an emergency operation” and discharged on conditions other than dishonorable, and veterans who have been the victims of sexual assault Assault, sexual harassment or sexual harassment while on duty.
According to the VA’s publication, the policy will “[p]Provide, pay for, or reimburse for “treatment” emergency suicide care, transportation costs, and follow-up care at a VA or non-VA facility for eligible veterans, including 30 days of inpatient treatment and 90 days of outpatient treatment.
The policy also allows the VA to make “appropriate referrals” after a period of emergency suicide care, determine veterans’ eligibility for other VA services and benefits, and veterans who received emergency care to other VA programs and benefits to refer.
The VAs Report 2022 on Veteran Suicide said that 6,146 U.S. veterans died by suicide in 2020, down 343 from 2019. Suicide was the 13th leading cause of death among veterans in 2020, the report said, and the second leading cause of death among veterans under 45 years old.
A report from the Department of Defense published in October 2022 found that 519 US service members, including active duty, reserve and National Guard troops, died by suicide in 2021.
Expanding care for veterans at high risk of suicide was the second priority goal of military and veteran suicide prevention strategy released by the White House in 2021. “People at imminent or high risk of suicide should be guaranteed equal access to quality crisis care and follow-up support,” the strategy report said.
President Joe Biden said in the 2021 report that the US was “failing to live up to the one truly sacred obligation to Americans…to look after them and their families when they return.”
“It is up to us to do everything in our power to fulfill our most sacred obligations,” he said. “We owe it to the memories of those we lost – and we owe it to the futures of those we could save.”
Editor’s Note: If you or a loved one have had thoughts about suicide, call The National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to connect with a trained counselor.
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