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New program aims to help new veterans with benefits, mental health, & suicide prevention

Posted at 6:51 PM, Dec 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-05 19:53:15-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — There's a new program that just launched by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It's aimed at helping military veterans with mental illness and suicide prevention.

“I didn't really know what to do, I sort of looked around and well now what do I do,” said Jeffrey Seliga, Army veteran.

Seliga felt the same way many veterans do when they first leave the military.

Within their first year of leaving the military, veterans experience suicide rates nearly two times higher than the overall veteran suicide rate, according to Veterans Affairs.

To help combat that, the VA has created a new program called "Solid Start".

"What we hope to do is help them navigate their transition more effectively, reduce their stress, connect them to resources so that they can have a successful transition to civilian life," said Margarita Devlin, principal deputy under secretary for benefits.

The trained staff will also focus on access to VA benefits and mental health.

“We hope to reduce the incidents of suicide,” Devlin.

Ninety days after a service member either retires, separates, or is discharged, he or she will receive a phone call from the VA.

They'll get the chance to talk about transitioning back into civilian life and what kind of resources they might need to feel more successful once outside of the military.

Tracy Jones with Rockport Warriors United says the new VA program is a good start, but she says many veterans are looking for a purpose when they're done serving.

“It’s great that the military has them learn how to write a resume and has them sign up for Tricare but when they come back a lot of them are so bored and so stagnant and don't know what to do with themselves and it builds up anxiety,” said Jones.

Jones says her nonprofit also helps people like Seliga get with other veterans to increase interaction.

“And it’s not just physically an open door but emotionally I can talk about things I feel comfortable here,” said Seliga.

The "Solid Start" program will make phone calls to veterans recently separated from the military at 90 days, 6 months, and then again after a year.