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LITTLE ROCK (KATV) — About 22 veterans commit suicide each day in the United States. U.S. Senator John Boozman is working to move a bipartisan bill forward to address this ongoing crisis.
The number of Arkansas veterans committing suicide remains higher than the national veteran suicide rate. Recent data from the Department of Veterans Affairs shows 89 Arkansas veterans took their own lives in 2020.
This is something Sen. Boozman said he does not take lightly.
"What we're asking the VA to do is give us more comprehensive data regarding those who have committed suicide," Boozman said, "What are the factors involved?"
Right now, the VA just tracks how many veterans who die by suicide had recent interactions with the VA through medical or mental health appointments, but the Not Just a Number Act will force the VA to take it up a notch.
"What programs in the VA seem to be working," Boozman said. "Maybe as we look into this data, we'd see that veterans who are committing suicide aren't engaged in particular programs."
The idea is to move from just tracking suicide as a clinical problem to taking a more holistic view; the law would make the VA also look at veterans' use of disability compensation, education and employment benefits, and housing programs.
"And then we can focus our resources on the things that are working," Boozman said.
Boozman's hope is that tracking this data will cause a ripple effect.
"I think as we make headway on veterans' suicide, we can take what we learn there and transfer it," Boozman said. "We have a real problem with active-duty suicide. It's much higher than the general population."
The Not Just a Number Act is ultimately designed to be another tool to help veterans in their darkest hours and save their lives.
Senator Boozman teamed up with Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana to create the Not Just a Number Act. Boozman said he expects the bipartisan push to have support from Congress.
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