"This report focuses on suicide prevention activities of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VHA's approach to suicide prevention is based on a public health framework, which has three major components: (1) surveillance, (2) risk and protective factors, and (3) interventions. Surveillance, or systematic collection of data on completed (i.e., fatal) suicides, is essential to define the scope of the problem (i.e., the suicide rate among veterans), identify characteristics associated with higher or lower risk of suicide, and track changes in the suicide rate. No nationwide surveillance system exists for suicide among all veterans. Information about deaths (including suicides) is collected in death certificates by state, territorial, and local governments. Death certificate data are aggregated into the National Death Index, which can be combined with data about who is a veteran to identify veteran suicides. The VHA collects detailed information about suicides among veterans that are known to VHA facilities; however, the majority of veterans are not enrolled in VHA health care, so other sources of information (e.g., Department of Defense data) are necessary to identify veterans. […] In contrast, some have testified before Congress that VHA's suicide prevention efforts have inadequacies, such as barriers to accessing care and lack of evidence-based treatments for those who do access care. A 2011 evaluation of VHA mental health services captures both sides of the argument, finding that VHA mental health care is generally at least as good as that of other health care systems, but that it 'often does not meet implicit VA expectations.' Potential issues for Congress and related recommendations by outside organizations fall into three categories: improving the timeliness and accuracy of surveillance data, building the evidence base, and increasing access to evidence-based mental health care."
CRS Report for Congress, R42340
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html