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Shulkin says biggest challenge facing VA in 2018 is veteran suicide

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
LISTEN: David Shulkin, Department of Veteran's Affairs Secretary

PHOENIX — The biggest clinical challenge facing the VA this year is the number of veteran suicides, agency Secretary David Shulkin said on Friday.

“We’re still working hard to make the system work better for veterans but we have a lot of work to do,” he told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News.

Shulkin said that some veterans may be reluctant to get care from the agency because of bad press, but that decision could be life-threatening.

“We do know that when people come in, they get help, they identify that they are having an issue that we can save lives,” he said, adding that the VA offers same-day mental health services.

But he was also aware that his agency has a long way to go. He said he and other officials have been transparent about discussing problems with the aim of improving.

“What we’re doing is talking about where our problems are, because if you don’t talk about the problems then you can’t find a way to fix the problems and offer a solution,” he said.

Shulkin made clear that officials have made it a point to listen to employees about ways things could be improved — and that included whistleblowers.

“Getting these whistleblowers to understand that they’re part of fixing the VA has been part of the progress that we’re making,” he said.

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