On February 2, Secretary McDonald and I will host a VA national summit on Veteran suicide prevention. Why a national summit? Because Veteran suicide impacts all Americans and needs to be addressed in a coordinated effort with government and community stakeholders. And, because all Americans, and VA in particular, have a duty to help Veterans suffering from the hidden scars of military service that lead them to think suicide is their only option. We must do better and this summit will help us to determine our future course.

The “Preventing Veteran Suicide – A Call to Action” summit will bring together VA and DoD leaders, mental health professionals, Veteran Service Organizations, Veterans and their families, and other key partners. These national leaders will direct their attention to how we can best help Veterans and their families access appropriate mental health services.

It will be an honor to welcome Susan and Richard Selke, as guests at the summit. Their son, Clay Hunt, was a Marine Corps Veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who took his own life in 2011. Congress subsequently passed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, which President Obama signed in February of last year. Their commitment to improving mental health care for Veterans like their son has been inspiring.

Also at the summit, Senator Elizabeth Dole will discuss the role of Caregivers and Dr. Ron C. Kessler of Harvard Medical School will deliver a presentation on “Researching Risk for Suicide among Veterans- What Are We Missing?” These are just two of the many supportive experts joining us for this important call to action.

We already know that America’s Veterans are at higher overall risk for suicide than the general public. Veterans suffering from conditions like posttraumatic stress, depression, insomnia, and chronic pain are particularly vulnerable. However, groundbreaking research shows us that Veterans who are fully engaged in VA care are at lower risk of suicide than those who are not. It is essential that information about resources for Veterans at risk for suicide is readily available to Veterans and those close to them.

We want Veterans to come to us, but we must also go to them and build effective networks of communication and care across communities and health organizations. We must be far more proactive and creative in our approach. I ask each of you to consider how you can make a difference.

I addressed our efforts yesterday in an op-ed that appeared in the Palm Beach Post and many other papers across the U.S. I encourage you to take a moment and read my op-ed.

I know that by discussing the many aspects of this unacceptable crisis in our Veterans’ lives, we will advance their care and treatment. I will report back to you with another blog following the summit. Thank you for all you do for Veterans each and every day.

Dr. David Shulkin

Dr. David J. Shulkin is the Under Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs




Share this story

Published on Feb. 1, 2016

Estimated reading time is 2.5 min.

Views to date: 180


  1. CSM Jane P. Baldwin February 8, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    I will answer the call! Where are the results of the VA National Summit? I would like to read them.

  2. Mike Adams February 8, 2016 at 7:15 pm

    Why are we dying by our own hands?

    Knowing we are not alone, does help.

    But its like the Agent Orange veterans, how much must happen before they are identified and things dealt with?
    My dad was some how exposed and his death due to diabetes was likely due to his exposure but . not just the primary but those effected by it.. Come clean or have they come clean on how much was done, and exposed or .. we will find out after all are dead and gone and no longer a “threat”.

  3. Shirley Karbowski February 6, 2016 at 11:13 am

    There needs to be more pro active approach! My husband a Vietnam Nam vet has suffered for years! Things have escalated lately because he mis understood his doctor about his RXs He went off everything, We are apart at the moment. He is now in trouble with the law. He his violent, and suicidel. We have been married 37 years. No one at the Va will share info with me, because of privacy acts, although I have power of attorney. I’m told he has his rights, which I understand, but does he or someone else need to get hurt or worse killed before the VA will get him the help he needs Hire more people, there are so many veterans that need help, but haven’t even seemed it yet. The families are in crisis too!

  4. Stan Riedel February 6, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Rather than force people to suffer, why not just help them to die with dignity. The VA doctors with a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude, dictate a way of life they would not want for themselves. Send people to bed to suffer, so as not take a chance of them miss-using a drug that will put a black mark on their record. They will give drugs to stifle any feelings, and have people live like zombies rather then help. If they are not going to help with the quality of life issue. They need to get a job where they are not working with people who need the necessary drugs that address pain issues. It makes the non-doctors of congress look good, and keeps their check coming in. As well as take the load off of the doctors to prescribe the proper drugs sitting on the shelves, made to help responsible patients. Instead, they get paid to act superior and all knowing to tell patients to learn to live with it, because some sell their prescriptions or take to much. Then look down on people, because they don’t do as they are told, and walk away happy with the advise instead of needed help. If they are not going to have compassion and give help, they should get out of the way and let people have control of their destiny as they see fit.

  5. DannyG February 5, 2016 at 9:06 am

    Mr. Hall, my Brother, You DO have a reason to live! We need you to help us fight the gov’t, & those grown disabled kids need you! PLEASE, brother, don’t give up!

  6. Stephen Hall February 5, 2016 at 5:44 am

    Presently, the VA here in Tucson has retroactively billed me a large co-pay for 2013 without considering all the facts that would prove that I lived below the national poverty level. Now, I owe several thousands of $$$$ and growing by the week with no hope of ever getting out from under the debt.
    Last month, (Jan 2016), The Hartford cut my disability without notice, leaving me $511. Short, and they are investigating into how much social security money was paid to six special needs adoptive children, that lived at home when I was married, and continued to receive after they became disabled adults. Then, they will determine how many thousands of $$$$ I wil owe them. My EX WIFE will Not be affected in any way. Therefore, I not only lose the monthly benefit, I also incur compounded debt that was not expected and could not have anticipated for many years. Furthermore, my rent went up by $60.00 per month!


    For the extreme freezing nights I stood watch on my ship, the twenty plus hours of hard work for the best twenty years of my life, all amounts to losing my first wife, son, and all I owned to some young “pecker checker” at San Diego’s Balboa Naval Hospital while I was serving in the Persian Gulf. Now that I am retired and useless, I am only good to bleed dry of any recourses that I will need to take care of myself with. The “Shadow Box” that was made for my retirement creamatory is full of nice medals that I earned, like two National Defense, Air Force Achievement w/ 2 oak leaf clusters, NAVY Good Conduct medals, and many more… What do they all amount to? NOTHING!

    I am worth more dead than alive, and you think a summit in timbuktwo will make a difference? HA!

    THANK YOU FOR NOTHING, all you have accomplished is to piss away more valuable tax payer money making a big display of your insincere efforts, which as I can see is your way of justifying the paycheck you receive, and having everybody calling you “Sir”.

  7. Heather Gilbert February 5, 2016 at 2:56 am

    I have a question. My friend committed suicide the 28th of December 2015. He begged the local Va for help. On his knees, the report states. Roseburg VA did nothing but sent him home. He was married the 12th of December to his long time girlfriend. I see all this prevention, prevention.. what about the after math? The shitty after math that I see everyday. Being a vet my self, this has to stop? At least get people in the Mental Health that gives a shit?

  8. Manuel A. Valenzuela February 5, 2016 at 12:29 am

    Excellent information…thank you

  9. Clarence E. Orr,Jr. February 4, 2016 at 11:35 pm

    Since deeply hidden actual VA literature states very clearly that as far as the VA is concerned THERE IS NO CURE FOR PTSD what is all the propaganda about?

  10. DannyG February 4, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    Here’s one for ya: My MH provider had many complaints against her; one brother even said she used HIS appt time to complain abt how much SHE hated her job! Instead of disciplining her,
    she was allowed to transfer to what I was told is the highest paying clinic in the system! This type of action not only increases the perception of a corrupt system, it also allows that employee’s crappy attitude to put more veterans at risk of suicide! If she is THAT unhappy, do everyone a favor & TERMINATE HER!

    • DannyG February 15, 2016 at 11:11 am

      It’s sad that nobody at the VETERANS Administration even cared enough to question me regarding this provider, & I am one of the (few) supporters of they have on this blog!

  11. Peggy Sanders February 2, 2016 at 10:44 am

    Dr. Shulkin:

    I would like to invite you to the VA in Hot Springs, SD. Come and meet the PTSD program veterans and see for yourself the healing facility that the Black Hills VA Healthcare group is in the process of trying to close. It is appalling that the VA is more interested in shuttering this facility than in using it to its full potential. Veterans lives are a stake the Hot Springs VA has the best record of helping PTSD veterans.

    Secretary McDonald and you should visit this VA to learn the truth firsthand. Your underlings are not doing the Hot Springs, SD justice and you are not getting the true picture.

  12. Abel Rosales February 2, 2016 at 9:12 am

    I agree we need to do something about this. I was reduced and forced out for an attempted suicide, just abandoned by my entire unit. Thank to the VA I’m slowly getting better.

  13. Leroy Morrow February 1, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    Where will the summit be held?

    Is it open to all Vets?

  14. DannyG February 1, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    I have ONE QUESTION: How many “average joes” have been invited? No more high-profile photo ops, big meetings, etc., all one has to do is listen to the veterans (NOT customers!) Secretary McDonald has worked his tail-end off, American men & women are dying in other countries’ wars, & America’s veterans are tired of being PAWNS in the games that politicians play! TEACH the employees to treat us with respect – TRAIN the employees to do their job properly & efficiently – TERMINATE ANYONE MINUTELY INVOLVED IN KILLING OUR BROTHERS & SISTERS ! Advise ALL veterans that we too, are to be held to a certain standard!
    I, for one, am sick of the childish bickering & finger pointing. We could be an unbeatable team, but we’re too busy fighting each other.
    I appreciate the thought, but until “you” find a cure for PTSD, no mtgs, photo ops, or “experts” will end veteran suicides. I really wish one of these big important mtgs was full of “crazy, ill-tempered, whiny”, veterans, that have a desire & some good ideas to submit.

  15. Tom Miller February 1, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    Dr. Shulkin:

    Great to see this very important event taking place. Will there be any online or phone access to the event. If not will it be video taped for access later?

Comments are closed.

More Stories

  • Ebony Dillard saw that patients who experience falls often have limited strength in their lower extremities. She designed a “Device for gait, Efficiency, and Balance.”

  • The SLICE & Simulation Showcase brought together simulation experts from across VA to share how their practices are improving Veteran care.

  • “Art therapy sessions let Veterans find a space where they feel comfortable. Their art is making an impact. That is the goal.”