On average, 20 veterans die by suicide each day. That's according to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, which also notes that 14 of those aren't under VA care.

Here in Alaska, the rate of suicide among veterans is nearly one-and-a-half-times the national average. Alaska VA Healthcare director Dr. Tim Ballard says he wants veterans to know that help is available. 

"Any veteran, even if they were disabled in other than honorable conditions, is eligible for immediate care if they're in crisis," he said.

After a veteran asks for help, VA staff will evaluate them and put together a treatment plan to ensure they get on the best track possible. 

Ballard says the VA also has a 50-bed inpatient domiciliary with comprehensive mental health services, Ballard said. 

According to a recent reports, approximately 65% of all veterans who die by suicide are age 50 or older — and women veterans were nearly twice as likely to die by suicide when compared to their civilian counterparts.

"Sometimes they get catastrophic life conditions that make them think that it's not worth living anymore," Ballard said. "Whether it may be a devastating healthcare issue, a significant life change and those sorts of things."

Ballard says the transition from military to civilian life can also be particularly stressful. 

According to Samuel Hudson, a spokesperson with the Alaska VA's public affairs office, many veterans may not be aware that they can claim a 0% disability and still qualify for health care coverage depending on their annual income.

"We're trying to do a lot of outreach programs to try to improve the number of veterans coming in to us," Ballard said.

Hudson says staff members have been visiting civilian organizations throughout the state explaining the VA's healthcare eligibility and enrollment processes. 

On Saturday the VA will hold its Patient Registration Day at the Fort Richardson Visitor Control Center from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Veterans can register their Veteran Health Identification Card for easier access to the base. 

The Veterans Crisis Line connects veterans and their family members to immediate care through a confidential toll-free hotline at 800-273-8255, online chat or text messaging service. 

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