August 7, 2020

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Trump Launches Task Force to Address Veteran Suicide

(Jun. 17, 2020) — On Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump took to the podium at the White House to introduce a new initiative put in place by an executive order last year with the purpose of preventing post-service suicide.

CAN THIS PROBLEM BE PREVENTED?

Trump Launches Task Force to Address Veteran Suicide
President Donald Trump speaks about veterans’ needs and his new PREVENTS initiative, June 17, 2020 (White House Facebook page)

(Jun. 17, 2020) — On Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump took to the podium at the White House to introduce a new initiative put in place by an executive order last year with the purpose of preventing post-service suicide.

The effort, whose acronym is “PREVENTS” (“President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide”), will dedicate $53 million to a new campaign intended to raise the public’s awareness of the issue over the next two years.

“They fought overseas and now we must join them in this new battle at home,” Trump said.  Thirty “large corporations” have joined the new effort, he said, with more expected to lend their support in the near future.

Trump began by stating that his administration “from Day One has been on a mission of historic scope and scale to deliver results for our great veterans.”  “After years of shameful scandal and neglect under the Obama/Biden administration — and scandal and neglect it was — we have fundamentally reorganized the VA from top to bottom,” he said, “and we’ve reestablished a crucial principle:  American veterans deserve the highest standard of care anywhere in the world, and that’s what they’re getting.”

That is enabled, Trump said, through “Veterans’ Choice,” which allows veterans to seek medical care outside of VA facilities to avoid lengthy waiting periods.  “We got it; we got it done,” Trump said, decrying the weeks-long wait times previously endemic in the VA medical system.

“The days of endless and deadly wait lists are over,” he said, ” and they are never going to come back.”  He recounted his signature on the “VA Accountability Act” which he said has “removed more than 9,000 VA workers who were not giving our veterans the care, respect, attention that they’ve earned.”

Now, poorly-performing VA employees can be more easily “fired” by the VA Secretary, Trump said, invoking the term by which Trump was known when he starred in the popular NBC show, “The Apprentice” for a 15 years.

Following Trump’s remarks, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Chad Hiser spoke about his service, his feelings of guilt following the 2003 deaths of 18 fellow service members in Iraq, a 2005 suicide attempt and his recovery in 2009.

The task force will be joined by Second Lady Karen Pence, Trump said, with the involvement of Surgeon General Jerome Adams and Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie.  The group will include HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar; and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, among others.

Following Hiser’s remarks, Wilkie addressed those present, emphasizing that Trump indicated support for veterans during his 2016 campaign and thanking him for launching PREVENTS.

A 60-page “road map” for the initiative is expected to be released on the task force’s website, reported Wednesday morning, as well as ten recommendations and approximately 300 pages of research utilized to formulate the strategic plan.

“The President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) will focus on a holistic public health approach to suicide prevention,” the website states. “PREVENTS seeks to change the culture surrounding mental health and suicide prevention through enhanced community integration, prioritized research activities, and implementation strategies that emphasize improved overall health and well-being.”