Jan. 15, 2023 – Veterans in suicidal crisis can get free emergency health care at any facility, including private, non-Veterans Administration sites, even if they are not enrolled in the VA system. The new benefit begins Tuesday.

The new suicide crisis care coverage from the VA includes up to 30 days of inpatient care and up to 90 days of outpatient care, as well as transportation expenses. While the VA already provides such care, the change means veterans do not have to pay copays, can go to private facilities, and ambulance rides are also paid for, NBC News summarized.

Veterans are at an elevated risk of suicide compared to the general population, particularly by firearm, studies have shown. 

“Veterans in suicidal crisis can now receive the free, world-class emergency health care they deserve – no matter where they need it, when they need it, or whether they’re enrolled in VA care,” VA Secretary for Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough said in a press release. “This expansion of care will save Veterans’ lives, and there’s nothing more important than that.”

In 2020, there were 6,146 veteran suicides, which was 57% higher than the rate for the non-veteran U.S. population, the VA’s annual suicide prevention report shows. The rate of veteran suicides may be double federal estimates because of undercounting in areas such as drug overdose deaths, according to research from the University of Alabama and Duke University, the Military Times reported.

The VA says there are currently 19.4 million veterans. The new coverage applies to veterans who served a minimum tenure or had specific experiences during their service. The nature of their discharge also affects eligibility. Those eligible include service members with more than 24 months of active service, or:

  • veterans (including reserve members) who served more than 100 days in combat or by remotely operating a drone as part of a combat operation
  • veterans who were victims of sexual assault or harassment while serving.

The National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline offers a special menu option for veterans. Anyone in crisis or concerned about someone in crisis can call 988 and press 1 (or text 838255) to access confidential live support. 

Show Sources

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: “Starting Jan. 17, Veterans in suicidal crisis can go to any VA or non-VA health care facility for free emergency health care.” “2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.” “National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics Veteran Population.” 

Military Times: “Veterans suicide rate may be double federal estimates, study suggests.”

NBC News: “Starting Tuesday, all U.S. military veterans in suicidal crisis will be eligible for free care at any VA or private facility.”

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