The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced in January 2023 that eligible veterans experiencing suicidal crises can now receive free emergency health care services at both VA and non-VA health care facilities.
These free services — which are also available to the millions of veterans currently not enrolled in the VA system — include inpatient residential care services for up to 30 days and outpatient care for up to 90 days.
“Every veteran's story is different, and so is their journey from military to civilian life,” shares Eric Leshinsky, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force with a nearly 30-year connection to the American military.
As the director of Student Veteran Affairs at Pepperdine University, Leshinsky is deeply familiar with how this transition can impact individuals and families.
“Helping introduce veterans to resources outside of VA facilities seems like a great way to connect them with the resources they've earned and need, at the time and place most convenient for them,” he explains.
Explanation of Benefits for Eligible Veterans
Veterans eligible to receive these free emergency mental health resources include:
- Non-dishonorable discharged or released individuals who served on active duty for more than two years
- Non-dishonorable former reserve service members who:
- Served for more than 100 days under a combat exclusion
- Served for more than 100 days in support of a contingency operation
- Served either directly or by operating an unmanned aerial vehicle from another location
- Survivors of sexual assault, battery, or harassment who were abused during their service
As part of the VA’s 10-year National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, in partnership with the plan for Reducing Military and Veteran Suicide supported by the Biden-Harris administration, this new offering will allow the VA to:
- Cover the costs of emergency suicide-related treatments, including transportation, follow-up health care services, inpatient care for up to 30 days, and outpatient care for up to 90 days
- Determine veterans’ eligibility for any other services or VA benefits (like for mesothelioma or Camp Lejeune)
- Refer eligible veterans to additional VA programs and benefits after they receive their emergency suicide-related treatments
Suicide Data and Statistics
Based on the most recent National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, published in September 2022 by the VA's Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, veteran suicides have decreased for the second year.
The report also notes that the number of veteran suicides in 2020 is the lowest since 2006.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, warning signs of suicide include feeling:
- Agitated, angry, and anxious
- Emotionally empty
- Extremely sad
- Strong physical pain
The institute also highlights that people experiencing suicidal crises might mention wanting to die, express heavy shame or guilt, and seem concerned with being burdensome to others.
There are also several behavioral changes to be aware of, including:
- Abusing drugs or alcohol
- Creating a will
- Engaging in dangerous risks, such as reckless driving
- Giving away valued possessions
- Overeating or undereating
- Oversleeping or undersleeping
- Researching or devising ways to die
- Saying farewell to loved ones
- Suicide Prevention Help for Veterans
Veterans who are experiencing suicidal crises can receive immediate assistance 24/7 by contacting the Veterans Crisis Line through:
- Phone: 800-273-8255 (Press 1)
- Text: 838255
- Chat: VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat
Sokolove Law Cares about Veterans
For more than 40 years, Sokolove Law has served a number of communities across all 50 states.
Beyond our pursuit of justice for individuals and families who have been harmed, our staff cares deeply about the unique challenges that veterans experience upon their return from service and assists them in learning more about health care resources exclusively designed for them.
Our team has worked continually to help veterans affected by a variety of issues, including:
- Mesothelioma from military asbestos exposure
- Health issues from the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune
- PFAS-related cancer for military firefighters
In the spirit of giving back, Sokolove Law is committed to helping communities thrive, particularly through involvement in numerous programs, partnerships, and sponsorships that benefit populations such as veterans.