VA Partners with Guard Organization for Suicide Prevention

Suicide prevention (U.S. Air Force/Kemberly Groue)

The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS) have formed a partnership to give Guard members access to the VA's suicide prevention tools.

Normally, National Guard members don't qualify for VA health care benefits unless they completed active-duty service under federal orders, had combat duty or suffered an injury in the line of duty.

Related: Who qualifies for VA health care benefits.

This move comes as part of the VA's efforts to prevent veteran suicide, according to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

"VA engaging members of the National Guard is a priority set in the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide," Wilkie said. "This partnership enhances the access to these resources for current service members and veterans already connected with VA."

The partnership also makes it easier for the VA to identify and connect with veterans who may be eligible but have not enrolled for their health benefits program.

"This collaboration will provide access to VA-developed education resources for current and former National Guard members who otherwise do not qualify for VA services, especially when it comes to mental wellness, substance use struggles and necessary emotional support," said EANGUS Executive Director Frank Yoakum, a retired U.S. Army sergeant major.

The program will make the VA's mental health and suicide prevention resources available to 414,000 EANGUS members nationwide. The VA and EANGUS are also looking at expanding the department's mental health resources and education initiatives to colleges and universities.

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