First year of VA’s new suicide-prevention policy impacts nearly 50,000 veterans, former servicemembers

First year of VA’s new suicide-prevention policy impacts nearly 50,000 veterans, former servicemembers

In the first year of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) new policy allowing eligible veterans and certain former servicemembers in acute suicidal crisis to go to any VA or non-VA health-care facility for no-cost emergency healthcare, 49,714 veterans and former servicemembers have used this benefit — providing them with lifesaving care and saving more than $64 million in health-care costs.

This policy has helped prevent veteran suicide by guaranteeing no cost, world-class care to eligible individuals in times of crisis — including emergency room care, inpatient or crisis residential care for up to 30 days, outpatient care for up to 90 days, and transportation costs. The policy has also increased access to no-cost emergent suicide care for up to 9 million veterans, because eligible veterans do not need to be enrolled in the VA system or go to a department facility to use this benefit.

Since 2021, VA has worked aggressively to expand support for veterans in crisis, including launching the 988 (then press 1) to help veterans connect more quickly with caring, qualified responders through the Veterans Crisis Line; partnering with community-based suicide prevention organizations to provide veterans with on-the-ground support; expanding firearm suicide prevention efforts; and encouraging veterans to reach out for help through a national veteran suicide prevention awareness campaign. 

“There is nothing more important to VA than preventing veteran suicide — and this expansion of no-cost care has likely saved thousands of lives this year,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “We want all veterans to know they can get the care they need, when they need it, no matter where they are.”

Any veteran – enrolled in VA or not – can go to a VA or non-VA emergency room for no cost emergent suicidal care under this policy. Additionally, this benefit covers certain individuals who do not meet the requirements to be considered a veteran, including those who were released from active duty under conditions other than dishonorable. It also covers servicemembers — including reservists and National Guard members — who served at least 100 days on active duty under a combat exclusion or in support of a contingency operation either directly or by operating an unmanned aerial vehicle from another location. Veterans who experienced military sexual trauma are also covered.

This benefit was created by the Veterans Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment (COMPACT) Act of 2020. Under this policy, eligible individuals receive:

·       Emergent suicide care provided by, paid for, or reimbursed by VA.

·       Expanded access and eligibility (Individuals do not need to be enrolled in the VA system to use this benefit).

·       Assurance that they will not be responsible for costs associated with emergency suicide care, including emergency transportation.

·       Referral for appropriate VA programs and benefits they may be eligible for following the period of emergent suicide care.

To use this benefit, any eligible individual who is experiencing an emergency suicidal crisis should go to the nearest ER as soon as possible — transportation costs are covered by VA — and tell the ER staff that they are covered by this policy. The ER staff or someone acting on the individual’s behalf should notify VA right away by calling 844-724-7842 (TTY: 711) or using VA’s Emergency Care Reporting (ECR) portal.

If an eligible individual receives a bill for community care after receiving emergency care during or after a suicidal crisis that they believe should be covered by VA, they should contact VA’s customer service center as soon as possible at 877-881-7618.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Dial 988 then Press 1, chat online at, or text 838255.