Senate Subcommittee Reviews Veteran’s Suicide
The Senate Appropriations, Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies recently held an oversight hearing on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) veteran suicide prevention programs. The Subcommittee accepted testimony from the VA Inspector General, as well as staff from the Veterans Health Administration, Military Veteran Project and the RAND Corporation. Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Jerry Moran (Kan.), Ranking Member Sen. Brian Schatz (Hawaii) and other subcommittee members inquired about resources and support the VA needs to lower the number of veteran suicides.
There have been recent press reports claiming the VA Crisis Line is still sending nearly one third of calls to outside back-up call centers. This is still happening, despite pledges in 2016 by VA officials to stop the practice, following a report from the Inspector General that found the call centers routed veterans to voicemail. The VA established the call center in 2007, anticipating 10 percent of all calls would be routed to a backup call center if all the phone lines are busy. Even though a second call center was opened in 2016, the number of rerouted calls remains high. The VA estimates 20 veterans commit suicide every day. FRA gives suicide prevention programs a high priority and welcomes this oversight hearing to help ensure that these programs help our veterans.
Also discussed was the impact of access issues in rural areas, properly managing chronic pain and the VA’s delay in addressing VA Inspector General’s criticism of the current program.