WASHINGTON– A legislative initiative led by U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Mark Warner (D-VA) is one step closer to becoming law. The measure to create a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) grant program to leverage veteran-serving non-profits and other community networks in order to reduce veteran suicides would potentially save lives.
The Senate VA Committee included language from the Senators’ IMPROVE Well-being for Veterans Act as a provision in a comprehensive bill that expands veterans’ access to mental health services. The legislation unanimously passed the committee and now awaits consideration by the full Senate.
“This is a great step in the right direction to getting our veterans the resources, services and care they need. Coordinating and sharing information between the VA and veteran-serving organizations that have the common goal to save lives will have a positive impact,” Boozman said.
“Our nation’s veterans have faithfully served our country, and they deserve to know that, as they face the invisible wounds of war, we will do everything we can to make sure they receive the help they need. Currently, we are facing an alarming rate of suicide deaths among our veteran population and we’ve got to make tackling this issue a priority. With today’s markup of our bill, we are one step closer to making sure veterans get the services and resources they need,” Warner said.
This legislation enhances coordination and planning of veteran mental health and suicide prevention services and would better measure the effectiveness of these programs in order to reduce the alarming number of veteran suicides.
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. Days later, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie called the bill “key” to unlocking the veteran suicide crisis at a committee hearing.