Youngest Veterans Become Leading Suicide Demographic

Youngest Veterans Become Leading Suicide Demographic

2019 VA Report: Veterans Aged 18 – 34 Have Highest Suicide Rate

Veteran suicide is now more prevalent in veterans ages 18 to 34. The suicide rate of this young veterans group swelled by 76% from 2005 to 2017, according to the Veterans Affairs’ 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Report, released in 2019. This size of a jump should have even more alarm bells ringing in the Veterans Administration, the Pentagon and in Congress. They are certainly lighting up all across America.

Previous data from the VA’s 2016 report of veteran suicide pointed to an aging veterans group as the most impacted by suicide. Those aged 50 and older that includes mainly Vietnam Veterans, were previously thought to be the most at risk age group. This new report turns that age bracket upside down. This latest report represents the most up to date veteran suicide statistics for 2021.

The Real Picture of Veteran Suicide is Still Coming Into Focus

With ongoing research, like Operation Deep Dive, coming up with new suicide data never before recorded, the real numbers that make up veteran suicide are still being tallied. With Coronavirus putting its stamp on the number, it may take another decade to get the final figures.

Transitioing from active duty to veteran status is one of the places where prevention can take place. Veteran nonprofit organizations, or VSO’s, and the VA are collaborating to create a resources network to provide mental health services before and after members leave. Recovery Engagement and Coordination for Health – Veterans Enhanced Treatment, a program that identifies veterans at-risk of suicide, was created in 2017. The emphasis on prevention continued at the end of 2020 with the passage of the Moran Bill into law.  With $127 million dollars earmarked for PTSD therapy, stopping veteran suicide before it takes root is the goal.

Operation Safe is another Veterans Affairs program that focuses on recognizing the signs of suicidal ideation, validating veterans’ experiences and helping them move past the stigma associated with suicide.

Yet unlike soldiers who served in frontline deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, research is now showing that veterans who have never experienced combat are at a greater risk than those who served in combat. This subtle side of military suicide that isn’t fully understood. In fact, a 2018 Pentagon study determined that 41.7% of active duty military members who died by suicide in the previous year had not been deployed.

Many veterans who’ve killed themselves suffered from suicidal thoughts, isolation, addiction and a military culture that suppresses and neglects the mental health of its members.

Service members often deal with declining mental health while transitioning back to civilian life, said Dr. Michael Marks, a clinical psychologist at the University of Arizona and former lead psychologist at the Southern Arizona Veteran Affairs Healthcare System in Tucson.

“We know today that actually more veterans who have not been deployed will take their lives than people who were actually in combat,” Marks said.

And with this latest report in 2019 from the VA, it seems that the youngest are the most at-risk, whether or not they were ever deployed. All signs point to a rough road ahead until we deal with better prevention tactics, transition help and postvention support for veteran families when we fail.

 

Sources:

https://www.kold.com/2021/01/08/suicide-rate-is-highest-among-younger-military-veterans/

ABOUT ONCE A SOLDIER

Our Veterans are killing themselves in record numbers mostly due to PTSD. An overmatched VA can’t take care of them or their families. We will.

Soldier suicide leaves Veteran families with thousands of dollars of bills unpaid, mostly bank loans.

We are the only nonprofit standing with the families after a veteran suicide. Stand with us.

Our Mission: Become the preferred channel for donors, advocates and volunteers who care about veteran families left behind after a soldier suicide.

Suicide Prevention in 2021

Suicide Prevention in 2021

 Latest National and VA Suicide Prevention Information

Research has shown that those veterans who stay in touch with their Veterans Administration services are less likely to commit suicide than those with no or lapsed connections. For veterans, this is a big advantage as the VA services are on the front line when it comes to saving lives.

urn for ashes

There is a new national suicide prevention hotline number, Dial 988, that is rolling out in marketing all across America. You can learn more about that here. 2020 has seen a rise in suicides across all spectrums and age groups, including veterans – despite increased efforts to get that number down. With 22 soldier suicides per day, 16 being veterans, we need more prevention. The recently signed Moran Bill recognized the role PTSD plays in veteran suicide, but it will be a year at least until those grants hit the front-line charities it was designed to support. Until then, here are some steps you can take for yourself or someone you suspect of having thoughts of suicide.

Suicide Warning Signs 

Kathleen Smith, PhD, LPC says that people can become suicidal when they feel overwhelmed by life’s challenges. They lack hope for the future, and they see suicide as the only solution. It’s sort of a tunnel vision where other options seem useless. Having a family history of suicide or impulsive behavior is also believed to increase risk of suicidality.

In her November, 2020 Psycom.net article, she lists a series of factors seperated into these categories:

  • History of substance abuse
  • Access to firearms
  • Difficult life events
  • Isolation from others
  • History of mental illness
  • History of physical or sexual abuse
  • Having a terminal or chronic illness
  • Past suicide attempts

There are also emotional, verbal and behavioral markers (symptoms or signs) to be on the look out for:

Emotional Markers can include:

  • Feeling depressed
  • Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Shame or humiliation
  • Mood swings

Verbal Markers include talking about:

  • Killing themselves
  • Their life having no purpose
  • Feeling like a burden
  • Feeling stuck
  • Not wanting to exist

Behavioral Markers can include:

  • Isolating from others
  • Not communicating with friends or family
  • Giving away possessions or writing a will
  • Driving recklessly
  • Increased aggression
  • Increased drug and alcohol use
  • Searching about suicide on the Internet
  • Gathering materials (pills or a weapon)

For veterans in distress, here is the latest from the VA:

If you’re a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one, connect with our caring, qualified Veterans Crisis Line responders for confidential help. Many of them are Veterans themselves. This service is private, free, and available 24/7.

To connect with a Veterans Crisis Line responder anytime day or night:

You can also:

  • Call 988
  • Go to the nearest emergency room.
  • Go directly to your nearest VA medical center. It doesn’t matter what your discharge status is or if you’re enrolled in VA health care.
    Find your nearest VA medical center

 

 

 

ABOUT ONCE A SOLDIER

Our Veterans are killing themselves in record numbers mostly due to PTSD. An overmatched VA can’t take care of them or their families. We will.

Soldier suicide leaves Veteran families with thousands of dollars of bills unpaid, mostly bank loans.

We are the only nonprofit standing with the families after a veteran suicide. Stand with us.

Our Mission: Become the preferred channel for donors, advocates and volunteers who care about veteran families left behind after a soldier suicide.

Veterans Administration Military Funerals Benefits Offered

Veterans Administration Military Funerals Benefits Offered

Funeral Honors Explained and Contact Information

-The basic Military Funeral Honors (MFH) ceremony consists of the folding and presentation of the United States flag to the veterans’ family and the playing of Taps. The ceremony is performed by a funeral honors detail consisting of at least two members of the Armed Forces.

The Funeral Honors rendered to you or your veteran will be determined by the status of the veteran. The type of Funeral Honors may be Full Military Honors, 7-Person Detail or a Standard Honors Team Detail.

At least one of the funeral honors detail will be from the Armed Force in which the deceased veteran served. Taps may be played by a bugler or, if a bugler is not available, by using a quality recorded version. Military Funeral Honor Teams may act as Pall Bearers if requested by the veteran/family.

 

urn for ashes

Know What You’re Entitled to as a Veteran or Veteran Family Member

Who is eligible for Military Funeral Honors?

  • Military members on active duty or in the Selected Reserve.
  • Former military members who served on active duty and departed under conditions other than dishonorable.
  • Former military members who completed at least one term of enlistment or period of initial obligated service in the Selected Reserve and departed under conditions other than dishonorable.
  • Former military members discharged from the Selected Reserve due to a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty.

Who is not eligible for Military Funeral Honors?

  • Any person separated from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions or whose character of service results in a bar to veteran’s benefits.
  • Any person who was ordered to report to an induction station, but was not actually inducted into military service.
  • Any person discharged from the Selected Reserve prior to completing one term of enlistment or period of initial obligated service for reasons other than a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty.
  • Any person convicted of a Federal or State capital crime sentenced to death or life imprisonment.

How do I establish veteran eligibility?

The preferred method is the DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. If the DD Form 214 is not available, any discharge document showing other than dishonorable service can be used. The DD Form 214 may be obtained by filling out a Standard Form 180 and sending it to:

National Personnel Records Center(NPRC)
9700 Page Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63132

Is anyone else eligible to receive funeral honors?

Yes. Members of the Commissioned Officer Corps of the Public Health Service (PHS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as members of a Uniformed Service, are also eligible to receive funeral honors.

For NOAA personnel, eligibility is established using NOAA Form 56-16, Report of Transfer or Discharge. If the family does not have a copy of the NOAA Form 56-16, it may by obtained by contacting the Chief, Officer Services Division, NOAA Commissioned Personnel Center at (301) 713-7715. or by writing:

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Commissioned Personnel Center
Chief, Officer Services Division (CPC1)
1315 East-West Highway, Room 12100
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910

For PHS personnel, funeral honors eligibility is established using PHS Form 1867, Statement of Service (equivalent to the DD Form 214). If the family does not have a copy of the Statement of Service, it may be obtained by contacting the Privacy Coordinator for the Commissioned Corps at (240) 453-6041 or writing:

Division of Commissioned Personnel/HRS/PSC
Attention: Privacy Act Coordinator
5600 Fishers Lane
4-36
Rockville, Maryland 20857

 

ABOUT ONCE A SOLDIER

Our Veterans are killing themselves in record numbers mostly due to PTSD. An overmatched VA can’t take care of them or their families. We will.

Soldier suicide leaves Veteran families with thousands of dollars of bills unpaid, mostly bank loans.

We are the only nonprofit standing with the families after a veteran suicide. Stand with us.

Our Mission: Become the preferred channel for donors, advocates and volunteers who care about veteran families left behind after a soldier suicide.

Three Stories For Three Years Working At Once A Soldier

Three Stories For Three Years Working At Once A Soldier

Their Stories Deserve Greater Awareness

With Congress, the VA, and major veteran service organizations all working to stop soldier suicide, our voice from the other side of preventions (postvention) is not as easily heard. Time will change that, but for now, we seem to be all that veteran families have in their time of need. As such, we hear the unfiltered messages of need and pain wrapped in the stories about what happened and why. The more people that hear these these stories, the faster the next family will get help.

I’ll start with the most recent family. From the midwest, Missouri. Mark killed himself in his car. He had just paid it off. His sister Teresa called the next day. Mark’s body was in the medical examiner’s office in St. Louis. Teresa said, “I don’t know what to do next.” Her voice sounded much older than her picture on Venmo looked. Teresa was able to pullcall despite that fact that she was in the middle of a crying jag.

She was still crying and short of breath. Mark was 58 years old. Ex-Marine. PTSD and alcoholism played a part in his life for I don’t know how many years. When those two problems are there, they are there for everyone around him. He was living with his parents. Teresa described them as having lost their mental awareness. They were; however, able to call the police and get the postvention ball rolling. 

Mickey

Once A Soldier is the Nation’s Leading Time of Need Postvention Service Provider

Izzy ZaZa was living with her long-serving husband Robert in Arizona. He served in Afghanistan. He befriended a teenager who his unit hired as their interpreter in one village. His unit left and returned to find that teenaged boy hanging from a pole. Years later, Robert went into a bathroom at home to kill himself. Izzy followed him in and tried to stop him. She got shot through her left hand and fell back. Robert shot himself in the chest.

Finally, there’s Mickey Keeney. I have lots of pictures of him given to me by his sister. Two stick out in my mind. One is him pinning his son as he enters the Army. The other one, above, was taken two days before Mickey killed himself. He was completley alone in his PTSD pain and it shows. He killed himself on that same couch that he’s sitting on in the picture. His eyes as swollen as his face had become. Soon his pain would be over, and his families would move to a new level. 

With the promise of help from Representative Rutherford, we hope to bring these stories to life in the halls of Congress in 2021. Until then, we will continue to answer the calls and listen to their stories.

 

VSOs, Pelosi, Takano Demand VA Secretary Wilkie’s Resignation

VSOs, Pelosi, Takano Demand VA Secretary Wilkie’s Resignation

All the Major Veterans Groups, Including Once A Soldier, Demand Better For All Veterans

How dare you treat one of our own that way? That’s the message, and with Representative Mark Takano (D. California) leading the charge, all of the Big Six veterans organizatins; The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, AMVETS and Vietnam Veterans of America, want him gone. Takano is the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The entire report, published by the Office of the Inspector General, can be found here.

“From his own actions, it’s clear that instead of handling the sexual assualt with dignity and honor, VA Secretary Wilike initiated a smear campaign against the female veteran,” said David Barbush, CEO of Once A Soldier. “Of course, we are thinking of the Veteran’s family involved in all of this.”

The veteran who made the complaint was, and continues to serve as, a staff member on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (HVAC). She works on issues affecting women veterans for the committee, including efforts to reduce the incidence of sexual harassment and assaults in VA medical centers.

Disgraced Trump Appointee VA Secretary Robert Wilkie

“When the most senior leadership of VA are derelict in their duty, refuse to take immediate action to correct glaring deficiencies, and are themselves complicit in attempts to discredit and cast doubt on the facts, they betray the public trust and as a result disqualify themselves from all future public service,” Rep. Mark Takano. Wilkie’s lack of character and ethics, a trademark of all Trump VA Secretaries, was recognized by other politicians in addition to Takano.

“The accountability, professionalism and respect that our veterans have earned, and quite frankly deserve, is completely lost in this current VA leadership team,” said B.J. Lawrence, executive director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “Secretary Wilkie must resign now.”

“It is unfair to expect accountability from the nearly 400,000 VA employees and not demand the same from its top executive,” wrote American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford. “Wilkie failed to meet the standard that the veteran who came forward with the complaint deserved. By the promises set forth by his own department, the American Legion believes Secretary Wilkie should resign.”

Along with Wilkie, Takano called for the resignation of acting Deputy Secretary Pamela Powers, acting Chief of Staff Brooks Tucker, Principal Deputy General Counsel William Hudson Jr., Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs James Hutton, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Curt Cashour. All of them were named in the report.

The OIG’s investigation was hindered by the refusal of several senior VA officials to cooperate with requests for follow-up interviews to clarify and resolve conflicts that arose when additional information was gathered after their initial interviews. The individuals refusing to cooperate included Secretary Wilkie, Chief of Staff Performing the Delegable Duties of the Deputy Secretary Pamela Powers, Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs James Hutton, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Curtis Cashour.

Sources for this post include the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and Military Times.

 

ABOUT ONCE A SOLDIER

Our Veterans are killing themselves in record numbers mostly due to PTSD. An overmatched VA can’t take care of them or their families. We will.

Soldier suicide leaves Veteran families with thousands of dollars of bills unpaid, mostly bank loans.

We are the only nonprofit standing with the families after a veteran suicide. Stand with us.

Our Mission: Become the preferred channel for donors, advocates and volunteers who care about veteran families left behind after a soldier suicide.

Veterans Administration Military Funerals Benefits Offered

988 Is The New 911 For Veteran Suicide Intervention Help

Nationwide Hotline For Veterans and Civilians

On October 18, 2020, when President Trump signed into law Senate bill 798 from U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.)—Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee— a new suicide prevention national hotline of 988 also kicked off.

Called both a landmark and a groundbreaking law that goes by the long name of The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, expect many new and different Veterans PTSD and Veteran suicide prevention services around the country. What makes the new law groundbreaking is that the VA is for the first time, accepting that Veteran charities and others can help, and that there are provisions to hold the VA accountable for it’s own. Credit to the VA leadership for stepping up and for the Congress that helped forge this bi-partisan bill.

John “Scott” Hannon along with Ruby

Admittedly, the 988 number is not the headline here. The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act will improve outreach to veterans and their mental health care options in six major ways:

· Bolstering VA’s mental health workforce to serve more veterans by offering scholarships to mental health professionals to work at Vet Centers and placing at least one Suicide Prevention Coordinator in every VA hospital.

· Improving rural veterans’ access to mental health care by increasing the number of locations at which veterans can access VA telehealth services.

· Implementing a pilot program to provide veterans access to complementary and integrative health programs through animal therapy, agritherapy, sports and recreation therapy, art therapy and post-traumatic growth.

· Establishing a grant program that requires VA to better collaborate with community organizations across the country already serving veterans. This collaboration will result in earlier identification of veterans who are at risk of suicide and will provide the ability to intervene with preventative services.

· Studying the impact of living at high altitude on veterans’ suicide risk and diagnostic biomarker research to identify depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and other conditions.

· Holding the VA accountable for its mental health care and suicide prevention efforts by examining how the Department manages its suicide prevention resources.

ABOUT ONCE A SOLDIER

Our Veterans are killing themselves in record numbers mostly due to PTSD. An overmatched VA can’t take care of them or their families. We will.

Soldier suicide leaves Veteran families with thousands of dollars of bills unpaid, mostly bank loans.

We are the only nonprofit standing with the families after a veteran suicide. Stand with us.

Our Mission: Become the preferred channel for donors, advocates and volunteers who care about veteran families left behind after a soldier suicide.

Meet Our Families

 

 

 

They come from all over the USA and we invite you to meet these brave families.