Statement from AFL-CIO Union Veterans Council Executive Director Will Attig on Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie criticizing the notion that the ongoing partial government shutdown may lead to suicides among veterans:
The Union Veterans Council is astonished by VA Secretary Wilke’s statement that goes against supporting data, research studies and the majority of mental health experts specializing in veterans health. This is an outrageous attempt to distract from the very serious crisis that tens of thousands of veterans have been hurled into with no end in sight.
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The reality is, we’re hearing from our members on a daily basis. For 24 days we’ve heard the concerns coming directly to our organization from the veterans themselves. This is why the Union Veterans Council has been proactively addressing the continuing life-stressors facing our membership during the last three weeks and will continue speaking out on their behalf for the foreseeable future.
Wilkie should not only apologize to those mentioned in his statement, who were only bringing awareness to the stories of current federal employees affected by the shutdown, but to the entire veterans community. Instead of wasting time making erroneous claims, Secretary Wilkie should take mental health experts’ advice and take part of the unused funds for suicide prevention campaigns to proactively create a taskforce to address the growing concerns for veterans mental health while furloughed or working without pay.