Jul 02 2019
WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) is one of six senators seeking to reduce veteran suicide by making the dedicated crisis hotline easier to access.
Boozman joined Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Jon Tester (D-MT) as the lead Republican sponsor of the Suicide Prevention by Eliminating Excessive Digits Act of 2019 (SPEED) Act, which requires the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to designate a three-digit dialing code, like 911, for the current Veterans Crisis Line number.
"Despite the significant resources we have allocated toward suicide prevention efforts, the number of veterans who take their own lives everyday remains unchanged. More work must be done to find ways to reach veterans in need. Establishing a three-digit number that is easy for veterans to remember, and quick to access in a crisis, is one simple way we can save more lives. We simply have to do everything in our power to move the needle in the right direction,” said Boozman.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that more than twenty veterans die by suicide every day across the United States and suicide rates are nearly two times higher for veterans than for non-veteran adults. The Veterans Crisis Line, a 24/7 operation created in 2007, has answered over 3.5 million calls.
Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) joined Manchin, Tester and Boozman as original cosponsors of the SPEED Act. The bill has the support of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Helping introduce the SPEED Act is the latest in a series of efforts by Boozman to address the veteran suicide epidemic. Last month, Boozman introduced the IMPROVE (Incorporating Measurements and Providing Resources for Outreach to Veterans Everywhere) Wellbeing for Veterans Act, which VA Secretary Robert Wilkie called “key” to unlocking the veterans suicide crisis. The bill creates a new grant program to enable the VA to conduct additional outreach through veteran-serving non-profits in addition to state and local organizations. Additionally, Boozman is leading efforts to ensure the VA corrects its suicide prevention outreach failures identified by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) as the lead Republican cosponsor of the Reach Every Veteran in Crisis Act.