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VA Taking Measures to Improve Mental Health Care

Mental health care is essential for our nation’s Veterans.

Tragically, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 20 percent of the suicides that occur in the U.S. are committed by Veterans. Between 2008 and 2010, about 950 veterans enrolled in VA health care attempted suicide each month.

According to information available from the Centers for Disease Control’s National Violent Death Reporting System, which receives input from 18 states, and other sources, there is an average of 18 Veteran suicides each day.

VA officials said more than 500,000 of their 6.2 million patients have diagnoses for post-traumatic stress disorder; 100,000 of those are Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans. In 2009, VA treated 1.2 million patients for mental health issues, a Government Accountability Office report found.

On Monday, VA Undersecretary of Health Dr. Robert Petzel said that the VA is auditing its 152 medical centers to see whether they meet the mental health care needs of Veterans. According to Dr. Petzel, VA headquarters officials are conducting site visits to all their hospitals, reviewing staffing levels; job vacancy rates and productivity levels.

VA’s 2013 budget proposal includes $6.2 billion for mental health, which the department plans to use for increased outreach and screenings, new technology for self-assessment and symptom management, and reducing the stigma of seeking mental health care.

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