VA, Health and Human Services

announce Governor's Challenge to Prevent Suicide

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will convene for the inaugural Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide among Service Members, Veterans and their Families (SMVF) on Feb. 6, in Washington, D.C.

Through data analysis and their current suicide prevention initiatives, 10 states were formally invited to participate in the Governor’s Challenge, of which seven accepted, to include, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Texas and Virginia.

State leaders will meet to develop a plan to implement the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, which provides a framework for identifying priorities, organizing efforts and contributing to a national focus on Veteran suicide prevention.

The collaboration between the agencies is an example of VA Secretary Wilkie’s aim to partner with organizations who share the same goal of preventing suicide among the nation’s Veteran population. 

“Preventing Veteran suicide is our number one clinical priority,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “This is a national problem that demands a nationwide response – the Mayor’s Challenge and the Governor’s Challenge provide a roadmap to develop that national focus of effort.” 

In March 2018, VA and SAMHSA initiated the Mayor’s Challenge with a local community-level focus. The Governor’s Challenge takes this effort to the state level, incorporating existing community strategic plans within respective states and supporting the initiative with state-level influence and resources. 

Earlier this week, Secretary Wilkie mentioned the importance of the Mayor’s challenge and Governor’s challenge as part of an Op-Ed outlining VA’s progress on suicide prevention for Veterans, which is the department’s top clinical priority.   

VA and HHS will leverage technical expertise from both agencies to ensure the work is codified, evaluated for effectiveness and shared with municipalities to optimize the collective efforts of all partners invested in preventing suicide across the SMVF demographic group.

For more information on VA’s suicide prevention campaign, visit http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/bethere. For information on SAMHSA’s suicide prevention efforts, visit https://www.samhsa.gov/suicide-prevention/samhsas-efforts

Veterans in crisis or having thoughts of suicide — and those who know a Veteran in crisis — can call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text to 838255.

Reporters covering Veteran mental health can visit ReportingOnSuicide.org for important guidance on how to communicate about suicide.

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Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie
Statement on the Passing of President George H. W. Bush

“All of America’s veterans are saddened by the passing of President George H. W. Bush.  His courage in combat was special even during the war in the Pacific, where our forces demonstrated some of the highest levels of valor and heroism in our history.  When holding the highest offices in our country, he never forgot those who wore the uniform.  The Department of Veterans Affairs sends its thoughts and prayers to the Bush family in remembrance of this extraordinary American.”

VA assists GI Bill beneficiaries with Education Corporation of America closure

WASHINGTON —The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will assist GI Bill® students affected by the December closure of Education Corporation of America’s (ECA) approximately 70 campuses.

VA is in the process of identifying GI Bill beneficiaries currently enrolled at ECA and informing them of follow-on options.

If schools close in the middle of a term and Post-9/11 GI Bill students do not receive credit, they may be eligible for restoration of entitlement used during that term.

"ECA announced this closure with little warning for its students, including GI Bill beneficiaries. VA remains committed to serving affected Veterans and providing them with the means to continue pursuing their educational goals,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

On Dec. 4, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools notified ECA of its decision to withdraw, by suspension, the current grants of accreditation of all the institutions owned by Virginia College. On Dec. 5, ECA announced that it will be closing all its campuses in December 2018 for the following ECA brands: 

  • Brightwood College
  • Brightwood Career Institute
  • Ecotech Institute
  • Golf Academy of America
  • Virginia College

VA is working closely with the National Association of State Approving Agencies to take the appropriate withdrawal actions by Jan. 1, 2019.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is a VA-administered education benefit available to Veterans or active duty service members with qualifying active duty service after Sept. 10, 2001. Certain members of the Reserves who lost education benefits when the Reserve Educational Assistance Program ended in November 2015 may also be eligible to receive restored benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

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Secretary Wilkie: VA not affected in the event of partial government shutdown

 

WASHINGTON – In light of the possibility of a partial federal government shutdown, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie released the following statement:

“Thanks to the leadership of President Trump and Congress, VA is fully funded for fiscal year 2019, and in the event of a partial government shutdown, all VA operations will continue unimpeded. 

“We thank the president and Congress for their commitment to our nation’s heroes in funding VA, and stand ready to provide all of the VA benefits and services our Veterans have earned.”

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VA announces fully capable Tele-counseling service within its Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program (VR&E) announced the ability for Veterans nationwide to meet with more than 1,000 Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors (VRC) via “Tele-counseling,” or virtual communication.

Tele-counseling, which is accessible on any device with a webcam and microphone, increases VA’s responsiveness to Veterans’ needs, reduces travel costs and time for both Veterans and VRCs, and improves Veterans’ access to necessary VR&E services.

“We strive to provide Veterans with access to personalized, interactive face-to-face care and services regardless of where they live,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “VR&E’s Tele-counseling service is another example of how VA continually modernizes in support of Veterans’ needs.”

Tele-counseling allows Veterans to meet with VRCs virtually through VA Video Connect without having to download specialized software or obtain unique usernames and passwords. Access to a scheduled counseling session is obtained through a unique link sent directly to the Veteran and is valid for that counseling session only.

Veterans participating in most VR&E rehabilitation plans of service may use Tele-counseling and are encouraged to speak with their VRCs about it. Participation is voluntary and not required.

VR&E’s updated Tele-counseling application was developed through a partnership with Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) VA Telehealth Services. VR&E recently tested the ability to use Tele-counseling during initial evaluation appointments at six regional benefits offices. This test was conducted to identify how using Tele-counseling can reduce time Veterans wait for an appointment. Best practices were identified and incorporated into the rollout of the updated Tele-counseling application.

Since 2014, over 56,000 Veterans have either completed a rehabilitation plan, are employed, or have achieved a greater independence in living through VR&E assistance. The VR&E Program currently has more than 122,000 participants. For more information about VR&E, visit https://www.benefits.va.gov/vocrehab/.

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