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Elizabeth Warren says she’ll reduce veteran suicide by half in four years if elected president

Senator Elizabeth Warren at a rally. (Edward Kimmel/Flickr)
November 07, 2019

Democratic presidential contender Elizabeth Warren said on Tuesday that she has a plan that will halve the number of suicides in four years from veterans if she wins the 2020 election.

“As President, I will set a goal of cutting veteran suicides in half within my first term – and pursue a suite of concrete policies to make sure we get there,” Warren’s website says.

In a series of tweets announcing the plan, the Massachusetts Senator said she will “work to end military and veteran suicide, and treat the opioid and addiction crisis.”

The plan includes investing more into the causes of suicide, adding a waiting period to purchase a firearm and, as part of her $72 trillion Medicare-for-All government takeover of the health care industry, provide universal mental health care for all U.S. citizens.

On average, 17 U.S. veterans commit suicide every day, based on the most recent data available in 2017 from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Reuters reported. The suicide data was widely reported as 22 per day on average, but a recalculated number from the VA reduced that average to 17.

In 2017, 6,139 veterans died by suicide, which was 129 more than in 2016 and is a rate of 1.5 times higher than the average non-veteran adult.

As this phenomenon rages one and veteran suicides reach an all-time high, military officials are also struggling to find a solution to suicides among active troops.

“I wish I could tell you we have an answer to prevent further, future suicides in the Armed Services. We don’t. We are caught up in what some call a national epidemic of suicide among our youth,” said Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

In 2017, 511 active troops committed suicide. Of that number, 114 were in the Army, 43 in the Marines and 65 in the Navy.

In 2018, the number of suicides increased to 541, 139 were in the Army, 58 Marines and 68 were in the Navy. The number of suicides in the Air Force dipped to 60 from 63 from 2017 to 2018.

According to the Pentagon, young enlisted men are the most at-risk population and guns are used 60 percent of the time.

“Our numbers are not moving in the right direction,” said Elizabeth Van Winkle, the director of the Pentagon’s office of force resiliency. She added that the fact that their numbers are comparable to civilian numbers is not comforting.

Military officials have suggested training military personnel just as they would like any other aspect of their training, such as marksmanship or physical fitness.

“Just as we talk about physical fitness, marksmanship, training and education, Marines must also be comfortable discussing life’s struggles, mental wellness and suicide,” said Gen. David Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps. “We must create a community where seeking help and assistance are simply normal, important decisions Marines and sailors make.”

Warren, who has three brothers who served in the U.S. military, also has plans for current and former U.S. military personnel by guaranteeing them pay and benefits and help the transition of veterans leaving the military by “[expanding] career opportunities for our vets,” her campaign noted in a tweet.