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Trump announces vet suicide prevention plan; 9,000 VA employees fired and more

U.S President Donald Trump speaks after signing an Executive Order on "Supporting our Veterans during their Transition from Uniformed Service to Civilian Life" on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C.
June 17, 2020

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced an awareness campaign developed by the “President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide” (PREVENTS) task force, aimed at stopping suicide among military veterans.

Trump said the awareness campaign will be aimed at growing public-private partnerships to help prevent veteran suicide. Trump touched loosely on the plan during a White House address while describing reforms on veterans issues under his administration, including the firings of over 9,000 VA employees with complaints.

“We’re expanding our partnerships with military and veteran organizations, universities, faith-based leaders, businesses, non-profits and all levels of government to establish specialized support systems for our veterans,” Trump said. “The task force has already partnered with 30 large corporations to help them prioritize the mental health of their employees and we will continue adding to that number and the number is growing very rapidly.”

The PREVENTS task force recently prepared a 66-page report further describing its plan to continue to combat veteran’s suicide.

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According to The Associated Press, the 66-page plan includes a $53 million, two-year effort that will include a public messaging campaign starting in the coming weeks to help raise awareness about veteran suicide. The plan also aims to provide grants for community programs to assist in suicide prevention beyond the VA.

Earlier during his address, Trump touted efforts his administration has already made to improve veterans’ health issues, including a 90 percent approval rating for the VA under his administration; a 19 percent increase since his administration began.

He also credited changes in the VA to reforms that have brought on the firing of more than 9,000 VA employees.

“We’ve removed more than 9,000 VA workers who were not giving our veterans the care, respect, attention that they’ve earned,” Trump said. He added, “if an employee of government mistreats our veterans in any way, does something wrong, or isn’t good for the VA, the secretary looks at them and say’s ‘your fired, get out.’ Before you couldn’t do that.”

Trump also noted veterans’ choice efforts, allowing veterans to seek medical care outside of the VA healthcare system. He said in some cases, Veterans were having to wait up to three weeks to see a doctor, prior to the veteran’s choice program.

“Veterans deserve the highest standard of care anywhere in the world and that’s what they’re getting,” Trump said during the address.

Trump credited the increased approval to several efforts under his administration including the VA Accountability Act and $9.6 billion for veterans’ mental health services in 2020.

“Every VA medical facility now offers same-day emergency mental health,” Trump said. “Something we didn’t have or even come close to having” in the past.

Trump also took jabs at the VA under previous administrations and described years of “shameful scandal and neglect under the Obama-Biden administration.”

Trump went on to describe the PREVENT’s task force plan saying “there’s more work to do. The tragedy of veteran suicide demands bold action at every level of society.”