WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) continues to urge improvements to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) policies in order to prevent veteran suicides and is now calling on the House of Representatives to pass the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act in order to reassure America’s veterans that their best days are ahead of them.
In a speech on the Senate floor applauding the recent Senate passage of landmark veteran mental health and suicide prevention legislation, Boozman said we’re “one step closer to paving a new path forward in suicide prevention and implementing a new strategy that I believe will give hope and purpose to the men and women who live with these invisible injuries.”
The bill includes provisions from the IMPROVE Well-being for Veterans Act, legislation introduced by Boozman and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) that will create a VA grant program to leverage veteran-serving non-profits and other community networks in order to reduce veteran suicides.
Boozman highlighted efforts of Arkansas community organizations like the Rogers-based Sheep Dog Impact Assistance and the Mountain Home chapter of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) that have built effective outreach programs and are making a difference in the lives of veterans.
“It makes sense that we harness the ideas and successes of community advocates into sound policy,” Boozman said.
The VA estimates that around 20 veterans commit suicide each day. That number has unfortunately remained roughly unchanged despite the drastic increase in funding. Over the last ten years, Congress more than tripled the VA’s funding for suicide prevention efforts to $222 million.
Only six of those 20 veterans are receiving healthcare services at the VA. That’s why Boozman and Warner are empowering the VA to share information with veteran-serving non-profits and requiring it to develop a tool to monitor progress so that resources can be concentrated on successful programs.
The IMPROVE Well-being for Veterans Act was introduced in June 2019. Earlier this year, provisions of the Boozman-Warner legislation were included in the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, which was unanimously approved by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. President Donald Trump is supportive of the solution outlined in the IMPROVE Well-being for Veterans Act and included the approach in the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) which was rolled out at the White House earlier this summer.