For nearly a decade, IAVA and the veteran community have called for immediate action by our nation’s leaders to appropriately respond to this crisis of 20 military and veterans dying every day from suicide. Thanks to the courage and leadership of veterans, military family members and our allies, there has been tremendous progress. The issue of veteran suicide is now the subject of national conversation, increased media coverage, a reduction in stigma and a surge of government and private support. In 2015, IAVA and our partners jump-started a national conversation. But the flood of need continues nationwide – and continues to rise. In our latest Member Survey, 65% of IAVA members knew a post-9/11 veteran who attempted suicide. 58% know a post-9/11 veteran that died by suicide. Every day, we are losing more of our brothers and sisters to suicide. This is not the time for America to let up. Instead, this is a time to redouble our efforts as a nation and answer the call to action. And IAVA will continue to maintain our leadership on that charge.
The IAVA-led Campaign to Combat Suicide and the passage of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act in 2015 was a historic breach element – a big first step. That effort woke up America to this pressing national security, public health and moral issue. Leaders from the military, government, the medical community, politics, sports and entertainment all stepped up to help. The entire world watched on live television as Clay Hunt’s courageous personal story was told by the President, and the issue was elevated to a level never before seen, at a signing ceremony at the White House. Over the last three years, IAVA has continued to push for awareness, support and action. We have continued to advocate in the media, testify on Capitol Hill, reach out on the ground and online to veterans nationwide, and vigilantly monitor the law’s implementation of the SAV Act by the VA. In 2017, we continued our fight to combat military and veteran suicide and led a successful effort to remove a provision from the NDAA that would have established an oath to be taken by transitioning servicemembers to combat suicide. Although well-intentioned, the provision had the potential to increase suicides. We also continued to spread public awareness for the suicide epidemic as thought leaders in panels, roundtable discussions with policymakers, and documentaries. Sobering statistics on suicide continue to be released, identifying women veterans at especially high risk of suicide. IAVA’s groundbreaking Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP) continued to serve as a safety net for thousands and continued to gather critical data on the growing and shifting wave of need and supportive services. But after a decade and a half of war, the need for reinforcements only continues to grow.
In 2018 IAVA will:
- Remain a vigilant watchdog to ensure Congress fully implements the Clay Hunt SAV Act.
- Hold the VA and DoD accountable to create
an effective joint plan of action to provide expanded mental health services for servicemembers transitioning out of uniform, as directed by Executive Order in January 2018.
- Raise awareness and ensure that the media covers veteran suicide responsibly and adequately to highlight the severity of the crisis.
- Continue to connect, unite and empower post- 9/11 veterans nationwide facing mental health issues through our digital resources, our local VetTogether events and our nationally-recognized Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP).
Learn more about IAVA’s campaign to combat suicide here.