Is Tester Prematurely Spiking the Ball on Veteran Suicides?
When I first saw the veteran suicide numbers being reported by the VA earlier in the week, I was immediately skeptical. My first reaction was that the US Department of Veterans Affairs was using old numbers. They were touting numbers that showed a decline in veteran suicides between 2018 and 2020. That's great, I thought, but what happened since the Spring of 2020- mental health took a hit across the board.
Montana's Democrat Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) was quick to tout the numbers. In a prepared statement, he described the numbers being reported by the VA bureaucracy as "positive news for the nation’s veterans and our country." He added, "it’s clear VA is having real success getting more veterans into care."
If you ask me, Tester was spiking the football way too early when it comes to veteran suicide numbers.
Yes, we saw historic, positive VA reforms implemented under the Trump presidency in the leadup to 2020. VA care and reform has slid backwards now under the Biden presidency, as Tester also chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
Chris Enget, a Purple Heart veteran who leads Concerned Veterans 4 America in Montana, agrees.
Chris Enget: If you're in the VA system and have a shortage of mental health providers, and the VA can't see you in a timely fashion- we're actually seeing that many veterans in Montana who should qualify for care in the community aren't getting care in the community at all. Based on our FOIA information that we've received from the VA, 60% of Montana veterans should qualify for care in the community options, and almost 24% are actually getting care in the community. So that's a lot of veterans that aren't actually getting the care in a timely fashion.
Enget also pointed to a new report suggesting that the VA has actually been downplaying the real number of veteran suicides. Veterans groups are also questioning the latest numbers being touted by the VA.
Here's the full audio of our chat with Chris Enget:
LOOK: 100 years of American military history