Today we join the chorus in our nation to honor and celebrate the people who have stepped up for generations to defend our republic.

Veterans Day, Nov. 11, was set aside 83 years ago as a national holiday to recognize the millions of men and women who have served in the U.S. military since our nation’s inception. It’s also a moment annually when our collective attention is turned toward issues our veterans face both at home and abroad.

And today, as our friends, family members, neighbors and colleagues who have served wind down from nearly two decades of war in Afghanistan, we would be remiss if we didn’t reiterate the fact that our responsibility to our veterans doesn’t end when the last boots leave foreign soil. Or when they return to civilian life.

No, in fact, it’s upon that return home that our national responsibility accelerates. Yet, our country’s mechanism to render aid to our current and former service members has persistent cracks. Yes, policymakers have made great strides toward addressing the shortcomings during the past half decade, but many gaps remain.

Fissures far too many veterans fall through each year.

The most alarming of those persistent, systemic challenges is the high rate of death by suicide among both active and former service members.

The White House last week released estimates that indicate more than 65,000 veterans died by suicide between 2010 and this year. That means more current or former service members have died by their own hand in a decade than the total of all who were killed in combat in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

Several years of tracking shows the suicide rate — a number that hasn’t declined in a meaningful way despite both discussion and ac- tion — among veterans is nearly double that of peer groups who didn’t serve.

That trend should both tell us about the strain caused by service to our country and the shortcomings of the safety net we provide for veterans. It’s no secret that our mental health treatment and support system is rife with shortcomings, but somehow it seems to fall short for our veterans more than most other groups.

So, at a moment when much of our national conversation is focused on how to best invest in our country’s future, we suggest our lawmakers direct at least some of their spending toward repairing or replacing the structures meant to support our veterans.

After all, our responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of the people who serve our country only begins when they step off the battlefield.

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