Veteran mental health is a key part of a pledge signed by two dozen companies during a ceremony Nov. 13 at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the partnership with corporate America will hopefully help drive down the number of suicides. He said VA’s partnerships helped to reduce Veteran homelessness. In 2009, there were more than 75,000 homeless Veterans; now there’s less than 38,000.
Veterans receive mental health help through programs like Project Atlas, where Philips, VFW, the American Legion and VA teamed up to provide equipment for remote telehealth exam rooms. Approximately one third (nearly 5.2 million) of the Veterans that VA serves live in rural areas and often drive great distances to access VA care. Telehealth is vital to increasing virtual care with the use of the VA Video Connect application.
Veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses also receive help through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program, which helps find them meaningful employment opportunities.
The more than two dozen companies who signed the pledge represent more than six million workers, said Eric Eversole, vice president of the chamber, president of Hiring Our Heroes and a Navy Reservist. This includes 20 Fortune 500 companies and 10 Fortune 50 companies.
More than two dozen companies signed a “Pledge to Prioritize Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing in the Workplace.” The core actions are:
- Overcome stigma, to normalize mental health problems and encourage mental and emotional awareness;
- Adopt a comprehensive, proactive and education approach, to make available resources, training and educational opportunities for employees;
- Provide access to assistance and services;
- Assess and measure, to reduce stigmas, promote awareness and provide access to services;
- Build a culture of inclusion, to create communities of support; and
- Continuous evaluation and ongoing collaboration
The pledge started as VA initiative, Eversole said. Deborah Lafer Scher, executive advisor to the secretary who leads the VA’s Center for Strategic Partnerships, worked with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the past two months to bring the pledge from a proposal to reality.