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VA secretary focuses on suicide prevention during Durham speech

Posted April 28

— Saturday marks President Donald Trump's 100th day in office, and to highlight the progress made during that time for veterans, Dr. David Shulkin, the secretary for veterans affairs, spoke at the Durham VA Medical Center.

Shulkin said one of his focuses is on suicide prevention and called it a top priority for VA hospitals nationwide.

"We've rolled out a new predictive tool called "Reach Vet" where we're actually proactively reaching out to those veterans at highest risk of suicide," he said.

Shulkin also noted, in another effort of suicide prevention, now those who were not honorably discharged can get treatment from the VA.

During his speech, Shulkin applauded the Durham hospital.

"This VA is actually one of the fastest-growing medical centers in the entire country," he said.

But the Durham VA has also come under fire in recent months. Photos surfaced in February that showed veterans in pain as they waited for their treatment. The first photo shows a man in a wheelchair who appears to be in severe pain. The second photo shows another man who seemed to be suffering from “pneumonia-like” symptoms, they said.

Shulkin did not shy away from the topic.

"It is not acceptable to treat our veterans with anything but the utmost respect," he said. "In this case, an investigation did go on and appropriate disciplinary action was rendered."

Army veteran Frederick Warsaw said he has been coming to the Durham VA since the 1990s.

"My overall experiences have been pretty good," Warsaw said.

His only complaint is that there are not more VA hospitals.

"The veterans who have to come from a distance and have to make their appointments and then come in, I think it's a problem for them," he said.

Within the next 100 days, Shulkin said veterans can expect to see even more for this suicide prevention initiative, which is called "Getting to Zero."

4 Comments

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  • Matt Smithe Apr 29, 9:51 p.m.
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    As for your final statement - that is the height of logical fallacy and it numbs my mind to read it and think that it made sense to you. You cannot compare a single payer government run healthcare system to a decentralized not-for-profit and academic medical center based provider system. I an afraid but morbidly interested in the mental gymnastics required to reach a state where this part of your comment made sense.

  • Matt Smithe Apr 29, 9:43 p.m.
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    Oh, my facts are just fine. You didn't actually read the study you posted did you? If you had taken the time to delve into the methodology you would find that it is a simple review of literature. Hardly an empirically robust method. The VA conducted similiar studies on its own behalf and had to admit that the result were inconclusive and comparison of VA to civilian facilities was not possible. Of course they did continue on with how great they were with no proof thereof. That's to be expected I guess. Have you been in the VA system? I have. It took me three months to get an initial appointment. I didn't like the PA that was assigned to me but I couldn't change. I needed a referral for a specialist but that was going to take 6 months. I paid out of pocket for my own health insurance to get the treatment that I needed. Oh, I should also mention that I work as a consultant in healthcare process and quality improvement.

  • Ian Jones Apr 29, 4:19 p.m.
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    Your facts are wrong. Care in VA is often better than outside the VA (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27422615), so if VA can not be reformed, neither can the rest of the US healthcare system.

  • Matt Smithe Apr 29, 3:18 p.m.
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    It is silly to think that the VA can be fixed. The problems in the system run so deep and wide that it simply cannot be reformed. They need to scrap the whole VA system and replace it with a Medicaid type of insurance. It is sad when Medicaid patients receive better care than veterans.