Throwing the Dice for $20 million to Reduce Veteran Suicides — A Major VA Gamble

Jerry Ashton
4 min readAug 24, 2022

Throwing the Dice for $20 million to Reduce Veteran Suicides — A Major VA Gamble

What do you do when you exhaust your tools and approaches to what has become an intractable problem, and find yourself at an impasse?

If you are the U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs, which has tried for years to substantially lower the incidence of vet suicides (currently averaging 18 per day), you go bold.

That “bold” constitutes in this case a challenge to the general public, and particularly the veteran advocacy community, to come up with ideas, approaches or inventions that will actually and materially change those statistics for the better — Mission Daybreak.

The premise behind this call to action is part of a 10-year strategy which posits that a comprehensive public health approach is required to address this scourge.

“Suicide has no single cause, and no single strategy can end this complex problem,” their website declares. “That’s why Mission Daybreak is fostering solutions across a broad spectrum of focus areas. A diversity of solutions will only be possible if a diversity of solvers — including veterans, researchers, technologists, advocates, clinicians, health innovators and service members — answer the call to collaborate and share their expertise.”

To motivate this community, the VA set in place a two-phase grand challenge. Phase I being open to all eligible solvers to submit detailed, 10-page detailed concept papers. This ended on July 8. A team of over 300 judges have now set about to determine the 40 finalists to be announced in early September.

1,373 Responses for the 40 Competitive Slots

Over 1,300 individuals and organizations submitted their papers, my organization Let’s Rethink This (LRT) being one of them. Each of them/us hoping to make it into that final tranche. Each of us realizing the odds are against us (close to 50 to 1) no matter how unique or important we believe our approach might be.

On our own, LRT reached out to fellow members of this “Solver Community” to learn a bit more about the solutions they offer and to question their participation once the forty finalists (only 30 of…

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Jerry Ashton

Navy Journalist veteran, co-founder and founder of the charities RIP Medical Debt and End Veteran Debt — co-creator of Let's Rethink This and "Impact Awareness"