In A 5-Day Period, Three Veterans Died By Suicide At VA Facilities

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army

House Committee on Veterans' Affairs chair Mark Takano said he would schedule a hearing on the suicides in late April.

Congress was prompted to act last week when three instances of veteran suicide occurred within a five-day period on Department of Veteran Affairs properties, Stars and Stripes reports.

Two of the instances occurred in Georgia, one on April 5 at a Carl Vinson VA Medical Center parking garage in Dublin and the other outside the entrance to the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Decatur. A veteran on Tuesday shot himself at an Austin, Texas VA clinic waiting room.

“Those deaths did not go by me without noticing them, nor has it gone by me that we have a job to do,” said Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson during a Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing.

The recent suicides, not an official subject of the hearing, was a significant topic of discussion after several senators asked VA officials to comment on Wednesday.

Executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration Richard Stone said that out of the approximately 260 attempted suicides on VA property, 240 were interrupted and stopped. he did not give a time period for the instances.

A Washington Post report stated that 19 suicides occurred on Veteran Affairs property from October 2017 to November 2018.

"Every one of these is a gut-wrenching experience for our 24,000 mental health providers and all of us that work for VA,” Stone said.

Democrat and Californian Representative Mark Takano, also chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, said that he would schedule a hearing on the topic later in April.

“Every new instance of veteran suicide showcases a barrier to access, but with three incidents on VA property in just five days, and six this year alone, it’s critical we do more to stop this epidemic,” Takano said. “I have called for a full committee hearing…to hear from VA about the recent tragedies and spark a larger discussion about what actions we can take together as a nation.”

Stars and Stripes reported, “According to the latest VA data, 20 veterans die by suicide every day. Of those deaths, 14 are not receiving VA health care.”

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