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Trump signs executive order addressing veteran suicides

VA secretary wait times
Secretary Shulkin on why the VA publishes patient wait times 05:03

President Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order aimed to reduce suicides among veterans, particularly recent veterans. 

The order gives the secretaries of the Defense Department, Department of Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs 60 days to develop a plan to provide, "seamless access to mental health treatment and suicide prevention resources for transitioning uniformed service members" in the year after their military service. That plan must then be implemented within 120 days. 

"We will not rest until all of America's great veterans receive the care they've earned through their incredible service and sacrifice to our country," the president said. 

The federal government estimates 20 veterans take their own lives per day, at a rate significantly higher than the rest of the population. The Naval Postgraduate School says veterans three to 12 months out of the service are three times more likely to commit suicide than active duty members.

Veterans in their first year may be particularly vulnerable to mental health challenges, but don't get the care they need. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that only 50 percent of returning service members who need mental health treatment seek it, and about only half of those who do seek it receive sufficient care. More than 18 percent of veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from traumatic stress. 

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump touted his promotion of veterans. 

"I'm honored to be at the forefront of the greatest strides ever made at the VA for our veterans, and it's not even close," Mr. Trump said. 

"I'm very happy to have helped, and I think our veterans, above all else, are happy," the president added. "They are -- the strides that we've made at the VA have been -- I don't know if they've been reported very much. You could tell me better than me.  I haven't seen as much as we should see, but I will tell you every time I talk to somebody, they're thanking us -- all of us as a group -- for what we've done for the Veterans Administration."

The president has attempted to prioritize veterans in his first year in office through executive orders, such as one expanding the Veterans Choice Program that allows some veterans to opt for private care. VA Secretary David Shulkin has said he is not in favor of privatizing the entire Department of Veterans Affairs. 

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