WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, sought answers on the status of a veteran suicide prevention grant program he shepherded into law last year and encouraged the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) leadership to continue to make suicide prevention efforts a priority.
At a committee hearing Wednesday, Boozman requested an update on the progress of the program from VA Secretary Denis McDonough. The secretary disclosed that he anticipates it to launch in the spring of 2022.
“I’m pleased the John Scott Hannon bill – we got that done, we’re starting to implement that. Can you briefly discuss how the program is progressing? Any more updates, particularly about the effort with the grant program?” Boozman asked. “Everything tells us that once they get in the VA, they’re going to do better than being on the outside.”
“We have been in the field now seeking public comment on that. We’re aggregating that. We’re in a position now – we’ll be able to invite competition for grants come next spring, and we believe we’ll be in the field with the funding by next fall,” McDonough said. “The president’s budget anticipates that.”
The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, a comprehensive expansion of veterans’ access to mental health services, included provisions from a bipartisan measure Boozman authored – the IMPROVE Well-being for Veterans Act – that created a new grant program to enable the VA to conduct additional suicide prevention outreach through veteran-serving non-profits in addition to state and local organizations.
Around 20 veterans commit suicide each day, according to VA estimates, and only six of those 20 veterans receive healthcare services at the VA. The Boozman-crafted program seeks to engage more veterans at risk of suicide through non-profit organizations already serving and reaching veterans in their communities.