WASHINGTON, D.C. (WBRE/WYOU-TV) American veterans are still committing suicide at alarming rates.  Veterans groups are pushing the Department of Veterans Affairs to focus more intently on the problem.  Eyewitness News Washington Reporter Brie Jackson reports the groups want whoever the president chooses to lead the VA to make suicide prevention the top priority. 

“We saw veterans not enrolled in the VA, their rates of suicide increase by 40 percent,” Said Will Fischer of Vote Vets.

 A Veteran, Fischer says suicide rates among certain groups of servicemembers are rising. He wants to make sure the next veteran’s affairs secretary addresses the issue.

   “How can we be invested in that VAa instructure to make sure every veterans has access to the quality healthcare we earned”

V-A officials estimate nearly 20 veterans take their own lives each day. Fischer says the Trump administration can reduce those numbers by investing in programs targeting specific needs of veterans.

“With dealing with amputations, traumatic brain injuries and dealing with post-traumatic stress.” noted Fischer.

 Members of congress say a lack of access to healthcare is a major factor in veteran suicide rates. Former VA Secretary David Shulkin supported crisis hotlines as one way to counsel veterans day or night.

With no permanent VA leadership, lawmakers like Senator Joe Donnelly want to keep the focus on suicide prevention. 

“What else can we do to move the ball here?”

Getting the right  care to the right people is a difficult thing. Leveraging things like telemedicine.

General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,  says the va needs more money for staff and more attention from leadership.

 “Because if i knew as much about people when they are alive as i do after when they die we would have been able to do something,” noted General Dunford.

Fischer hopes the president’s picks to lead the v-a- makes veterans lives a top priority. Before its too late.