WORMLEYSBURG, CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Pa. - State and U.S. lawmakers coming together to discuss an issue affecting veterans. Everyday, around 20 veterans are committing suicide. Through roundtable discussion, State Senator Mike Regan, along with U.S. Congressman Scott Perry, are tackling the ever growing problem of veteran suicides.
"It's important that we recognize what's causing this phenomenon," said Senator Regan. "And that we do things to address it."
Everyday about 20 veterans nationwide commit suicide. Senator Regan says, that number is higher in Pennsylvania. To go along with that, only 30 percent of veterans sign up for VA benefits.
"I think outreach is certainly something that we should be looking at, a way to reach out to all our veterans to let them know that there is help available for them," said Senator Regan. "Not just for mental health purposes but for all purposes, which may lead to a diagnosis down the road that could prevent suicide."
In 2018, the VA Mission Act was passed by Congress, designed to improve veteran access to VA healthcare. Yet, experts say, there are too many rules and regulations in the act delaying veterans' access to programs. Another problem, the need to update the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program. Noreen Krymski with Mission 22, an organization which combats veteran suicide say, after spending several years on active duty, transition to civilian life was extremely difficult.
"Waking up that first day going, 'uhhh, what do I do?' They don't teach you that," said Krymski. "They don't teach you how to navigate the VA system, how to apply for benefits. That has to change, and those stigmas have to be sorted before the service member gets out."
Senator Regan will hold more roundtable discussions like this one around the state, trying to come up with an answer to this problem. He says solutions could include more funding, policy changes, and new laws to allow veterans to get the help them need.
Any veterans struggling or in crisis can call (1-800-273-8255 and press 1) or text (838255) the Veteran Crisis Hotline. There are people there to answer 24/7. Most of them are veterans themselves. More information can be found here.