Nearly 50% Of VA Clinicians Aren’t Doing Their Required Suicide-Prevention Training

Veterans Benefits
AP Images

Nearly half of all Veterans Health Administration clinicians did not complete suicide risk management training within the timeframe mandated by the Department of Veterans Affairs last year, according to a new report released May 18 by the Department of VA Inspector General.


All primary care and mental health providers within the VA are required to receive the training to help them manage high-risk patients. Between Oct. 1, 2015 through March 31, 2016, the inspector general evaluated 28 facilities around the country. Of those, 84.4% of facilities assessed by the inspector general provided suicide prevention training to new non-clinical staff; however, “45.7 percent of the time clinicians did not complete suicide risk management training within 90 days of hire.”

It is unclear whether those clinicians complete training after the 90-day mandated time frame, or if they forego the training altogether.

“While overall we are very pleased with the report, we are concerned about some clinicians who failed to adhere to fully adhere to VHA guidelines because of their reluctance to label patients, concerns about liability, and the perception it would increase their workload,” Louis Celli, national director of veterans affairs & rehabilitation at The American Legion, told Task & Purpose.

The report also found that  25.4% of clinicians were not documenting reviews of patient record flags on electronic health records for upward of 120 days, even though the VHA requires them clinicians to review patient record flags regularly — essentially every 90 days — and document justification for continuing or discontinuing them. Patient record flags are used “to communicate to other treating clinicians that the patients are at high risk for suicide,” according to the report.

Further, the inspector general also found that 11.4% of high-risk inpatients’ and high-risk outpatients’ electronic health records did not contain up-to-date suicide prevention safety plans, which are supposed to be put in place by clinicians for all high-risk patients. In its last report, the inspector general found 12% of high-risk patients did not have suicide prevention safety plans in place, meaning that there has only been a 0.6% improvement since 2011.

“We take this issue very seriously,” Joe Plenzler, ‎director of media relations at the American Legion, told Task & Purpose. “In March 2013, the Pentagon reported more soldiers were dying overseas by committing suicide than from combat wounds, about one a day; and there was one suicide every 17 hours among all active duty, reserve and National Guard members, according to figures gathered from each branch.”

“According to the Congressional Research Service, there have been over 128,000 deployed veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder between 2000 and 2014, and fewer than half of veterans who report symptoms of combat-related PTSD receive the care they need, and of those who do start treatment, between 20 to 50% do not finish,” he added.

But the VA is taking steps in the right direction. In late April, the department unveiled a new program that reviews veterans' health records to identify those who might be at greater risk of suicide. Military.com reported that after six years in development, 6,400 of the most high-risk VA patients across the country have been enrolled in the program so far.

But VHA facilities still have much work to do.

Last year, the VA released a report showing that 20 veterans died by suicide daily in 2014. Additionally, the study found that veterans make up less than 9% of the U.S. population, but accounted for 18% of all suicides in 2014. Further, that same year, 65% of veterans who died by suicide were aged 50 years or older.

An Air Force civilian has died at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar in a "non-combat related incident," U.S. Air Forces Central Command announced on Friday.

Jason P. Zaki, 32, died on Wednesday while deployed to the 609th Air Operations Center from the Pentagon, an AFCENT news release says.

Read More Show Less
President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, right, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe, left, walk at Trump's private Mar-a-Lago club, Tuesday, April 17, 2018, in Palm Beach, Fla. (Associated Press//Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

At a time when taxpayer and foreign-government spending at Trump Organization properties is fueling political battles, a U.S. Marine Corps reserve unit stationed in South Florida hopes to hold an annual ball at a venue that could profit the commander in chief.

The unit is planning a gala to celebrate the 244th anniversary of the Marines' founding at President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach on Nov. 16, according to a posting on the events website Evensi.

Read More Show Less

Editor's Note: This article by Matthew Cox originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

QUANTICO, Virginia -- They may not be deadly, but some of the nonlethal weapons the Marine Corps is working on look pretty devastating.

The Marine Corps Joint Nonlethal Weapons Directorate is currently testing an 81mm mortar round that delivers a shower of flashbang grenades to disperse troublemakers. There is also an electric vehicle-stopper that delivers an electrical pulse to shut down a vehicle's powertrain, designed for use at access control points.

"When you hear nonlethal, you are thinking rubber bullets and batons and tear gas; it's way more than that," Marine Col. Wendell Leimbach Jr., director of the Joint Nonlethal Weapons Directorate, told an audience at the Modern Day Marine 2019 expo.

Read More Show Less

RACHEL, Nev. (Reuters) - UFO enthusiasts began descending on rural Nevada on Thursday near the secret U.S. military installation known as Area 51, long rumored to house government secrets about alien life, with local authorities hoping the visitors were coming in peace.

Some residents of Rachel, a remote desert town of 50 people a short distance from the military base, worried their community might be overwhelmed by unruly crowds turning out in response to a recent, viral social-media invitation to "storm" Area 51. The town, about 150 miles (240 km) north of Las Vegas, lacks a grocery store or even a gasoline station.

Dozens of visitors began arriving outside Rachel's only business - an extraterrestrial-themed motel and restaurant called the Little A'Le'Inn - parking themselves in cars, tents and campers. A fire truck was stationed nearby.

Alien enthusiasts descend on the Nevada desert to 'storm' Area 51

(Reuters/Jim Urquhart)

Attendees arrive at the Little A'Le'Inn as an influx of tourists responding to a call to 'storm' Area 51, a secretive U.S. military base believed by UFO enthusiasts to hold government secrets about extra-terrestrials, is expected Rachel, Nevada, U.S. September 19, 2019

One couple, Nicholas Bohen and Cayla McVey, both sporting UFO tattoos, traveled to Rachel from the Los Angeles suburb of Fullerton with enough food to last for a week of car-camping.

"It's evolved into a peaceful gathering, a sharing of life stories," McVey told Reuters, sizing up the crowd. "I think you are going to get a group of people that are prepared, respectful and they know what they getting themselves into."

Read More Show Less

OAKLAND, Calif. — A United States Coast Guard commander was charged with illegal importation of controlled substances Wednesday, a U.S. Justice Department spokesman said.

Read More Show Less