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From Staff Reports

Some 2,000 combat vets surveyed by Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) reported “crisis with suicide” as their number one concern.

Nearly half of all veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan know at least one who attempted suicide, and 40 percent know someone who did.

The largest survey of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans found much has improved in America’s care of veterans. Yet there are plenty of challenges and notable gaps in data nationwide.

“We still don’t know how many veterans are alive in this country,” says one former army captain.

The IAVA survey offers a window into the priorities. The survey exclusively sought combat veterans.

More than half of respondents—53 percent—say they have a mental health injury, and nearly one-third said they considered taking their own life since joining the military.

These are strikingly high figures, says Phil Carter, director of MVS Program, which may indicate the combat veteran has greater need than previously believed.

Seventy-two percent report being satisfied with mental health care they’re receiving through the VA. Still, 68 percent reported problems just scheduling appointments.

“By and large, once they get care, they are very satisfied with it,” says Jackie Maffucci, IAVA. “But the challenge is getting that access.”

Often, the key is encouraging veterans to seek help. More than three quarters had a loved one suggest they seek care for a mental health injury, and they duly sought care as a result. 

“That’s a powerful number, and a powerful message, to family members, friends, peers,” Maffucci noted. “It’s okay to suggest it. It helps. And when we encourage our loved ones to seek help, that’s what’s going to make the difference.”

As the war in Afghanistan winds down, veterans report their ongoing concern remains whether the nation will continue with care for troops with the same robustness the public showed during a decade of war.

Specifically, veterans “are worried the public is going to forget about them,” Maffucci says. “We need to have the backs of our veterans like they’ve had our backs for the last decade. This is a matter of life and death.”

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