TAMPA (FOX 13) - The Department of Veterans Affairs says the suicide rate for veterans has surged in recent years, and VA Secretary David Shulkin is looking for ways to stop it.
According to VA research, veterans have been taking their own lives at a rate of around 20 per day. He statistics show most are younger than 50.
Tony Jones is a veteran from the Bay Area who says he may have some insight on what many of those vets were going through because he's been struggling with thoughts of suicide for years.
"I tried to jump off the Sunshine Skyway Bridge; Tampa police stopped me. I tried to shoot myself; my wife stopped me. I parked on the train track; my wife stopped me."
Tony said he's considered taking his own life at least 10 times. Doctors tied his depression to wounds to his legs and feet during his time in the service. He gets disability benefits now. But he says he's fighting for back-pay for the years he had to wait to get approved.
And when the VA sends him form letters that don't explain things in a way he can understand, it fuels his anger and depression.
"Maybe that's why I'm angry because nobody will sit down [and help him understand the reason for delays or denials]," he said.
He said there's a reason why Tampa police talked him down from that bridge.
"They just made me feel I had someone who was compassionate and concerned, so it made me feel as if my life was worth living," he said.
But when he receives form letters from a department swamped in disability claims, it feeds his frustration. He suspects the struggle for benefits, and confusion and frustration veterans go through in the process exacerbate their problems. He suggests the federal government spend more time clarifying and explaining matters to veterans who are often agitated and confused.
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Meanwhile, federal inspectors have flagged the Department of Veterans Affairs crisis hotline for poor management, which has led to long hold times (which caused some veterans to hang up before getting help).