ARLINGTON, Va., May 30, 2014 -- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) called President Obama's decision to accept the resignation of U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Eric Shinseki "a powerful message" of the need for change—that must now be followed by urgent action to nominate as General Shinseki's successor a "proven leader who has a demonstrated commitment to timely access to quality mental health care."
In a letter to the President, NAMI stated continued outrage over the findings of the recent VA Inspector General's interim report on patient wait times and an earlier report that revealed that on average it takes approximately 50 days for the VA to provide an initial mental health evaluation before treatment even begins.
"Barriers to care for veterans suffering severe psychiatric symptoms are unacceptable," NAMI Executive Director Mary Gilibertiadvised the President. She noted that approximately 22 veterans die by suicide each day—an increase of 20 percent over 10 years—and called the trend "inexcusable" and "reprehensible."
Going forward, Giliberti called for a strong VA leadership commitment to "parity, collaboration, action and accountability" in meeting veterans' mental health needs.
She also emphasized the importance of the VA working to create a culture that encourages veterans to seek mental healthcare when they need it.
NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
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