Alarmed by the number of suicides committed by military veterans, President Donald Trump has ordered federal officials to develop plans to provide “seamless access” to mental health resources for former soldiers.
"We want them to get the highest care and the care that they so richly deserve," Trump said before signing an executive order on Tuesday in the Oval Office. "It's something that is a top priority."
The order directs the secretaries of defense, homeland security and veterans affairs to provide access to mental health and suicide-prevention resources to veterans, especially during the first year after they leave the armed forces.
Veterans are committing suicide at a rate of 20 a day. “That is just an unacceptable number, and we are focused on doing everything we can to prevent these veterans’ suicides,” said Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin.
“As service members transition to veteran status, they face higher risk of suicide and mental health difficulties,” Shulkin added. “During this critical phase, many transitioning service members may not qualify for enrollment in health care. The focus of this executive order is to coordinate federal assets to close that gap.”
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen noted that nearly 28 percent of her department's workforce has served in the armed forces. "This critically important executive order will provide our service members with the support they need as they transition to civilian life,” she said.
Trump used the occasion to tout steps taken to reform parts of the VA health system.
“Now when somebody doesn’t do the job at the VA, we fire that person,” he said. “When somebody’s bad to our great veterans, even sadistically bad, we fire those people. Get them out.”