Contact: Miles Migliara
National Communications Manager
AMVETS (American Veterans)
AMVETS National Headquarters, April 11, 2019 – In a letter sent today to the inspectors general of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, and Department of Health & Human Services, AMVETS called for an “immediate multi-agency investigation into the suicide epidemic among veterans and service members.”
“We can no longer view these suicides in the abstract, from a statistical perspective, and merely lament its prevalence,” said AMVETS National Executive Director Joe Chenelly, citing the recent spate of suicides that occurred at VA medical Centers in Georgia, Texas, and Florida. “While we realize the Defense Department and VA are comprised by a fragmented series of units and facilities where these lives were lost, AMVETS considers it a national crisis at this point.”
Nineteen suicides occurred on VA campuses from October 2017 to November 2018 ― seven of them in parking lots. These include a Marine Corps veteran who took his life in the Minneapolis VA hospital’s parking lot, as well as a Marine colonel who shot himself in December 2018 outside the Bay Pines Department of Veterans Affairs while dressed in his service uniform. Many believe these suicides are intended to make a statement regarding negative experiences when trying to access mental healthcare.
“Many of these suicides appear to be protests of last resort, where healthcare systems, treatment programs, and the underlying cultures of the responsible federal agencies have failed them,” said Chenelly. “We can no longer accept that ‘20 suicides a day’ is the norm and approach this crisis with passive resignation.”
Chenelly concluded by calling on each federal agency to launch a “joint, coordinated investigation into the veteran and service member suicide epidemic” that examines drugs prescribed and treatment protocols used to determine whether generally accepted practices have proven ineffective.
AMVETS is the nation’s largest and oldest Congressionally-chartered veterans service organization that is open to and fights for all veterans who served honorably, including reservists & guardsmen. AMVETS has been a nonpartisan advocate for veterans and their families for more than 70 years. amvets.org