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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman January 12, 2023

Biden administration has continued efforts to reduce veteran suicides

President Joe Biden's administration has taken steps toward reducing veterans' suicides, but has not created a national center, as Biden promised. 

We found that the federal government already had a central office devoted to reducing veteran suicides before Biden took office. 

The suicide prevention office serves as a centralized coordinating hub for all suicide prevention efforts across the Veterans Affairs department. These efforts include research, program evaluation, education and training. 

The VA also has two research centers that predate Biden's presidency and focus on veteran suicide prevention: the Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention and the Rocky Mountain Mental Illness Research Education & Clinical Center (MIRECC) for Suicide Prevention

In 2020, there were 6,146 veteran suicide deaths, according to the VA's most recent annual report.

In June 2020, the VA announced its support for the 988 expansion initiative, a national three-digit emergency telephone number to access crisis call centers across the country for suicide prevention and mental health services. Anyone, including people who aren't veterans, can call the 988 line, but as of July, veterans press 1 to connect with qualified responders for 24/7 crisis support.

From July to mid-December, the Veterans Crisis Line responded to 400,000 veterans, a VA spokesperson told PolitiFact.

What has the Biden administration done to advance his promise?

The Biden administration in 2021 released a plan to offer firearms safety training and education and to expand access to mental health care. It's also reviewing how to reduce or eliminate co-payments for people seeking mental health care.

There are other efforts underway to integrate suicide prevention tools across departments beyond the VA, said Rajeev Ramchand, who studies veteran policy and veteran suicide at the Rand Corp., a consulting nonprofit research group.

That is important, because many veterans don't access services through the VA, Ramchand said. Some veterans use health insurance through their work, and others are not eligible for VA care or go to doctor's offices that are more convenient to them, Ramchand added.

Katie Purswell, director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation at the American Legion, a group supporting veterans, said that although the VA and other federal agencies provide resources and issue guidance and policy, it would be better if these offices combined their resources. 

The Biden administration has taken steps toward reducing veteran suicide. We will revisit this promise later during his term, but for now, we rate it In the Works. 

RELATED: Biden Promise Tracker

RELATED: All of our fact-checks about veterans

Our Sources

White House, Reducing military and veteran suicide: Advancing a comprehensive, cross-sector, evidence-informed public health strategy, 2021

Veterans Administration, National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual report, September 2022

Email interview, Terrence L. Hayes, Department of Veterans Affairs spokesperson, Dec. 14, 2022

Email interview, Katie Purswell, director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation at the American Legion, Dec. 16, 2022

Telephone interview, Rajeev Ramchand, co-director, RAND Epstein Family Veterans Policy Research Institute, senior behavioral scientist, RAND Corporation, Jan. 11, 2023


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