WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs (VA) Committee, continues to advocate for improved coordination of suicide prevention efforts to save the lives of veterans.
“We are going to insist that the money we spend to target veterans mental health care is supporting programs that are doing a good job,” Boozman said at a joint Senate and House VA Committee hearing. “We need to double down on programs that are effective and get rid of the ones that aren’t.”
Over the past month, leaders of veteran service organizations (VSOs) have pressed Congress to do more to address the veteran suicide crisis. VSOs including Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and the American Legion have made this one of their top legislative priorities.
American Legion National Commander Bill Oxford testified on Wednesday that an online mental health survey by the Legion last year showed that 30 percent of respondents knew a veteran who died by suicide and 67 percent indicated they would be willing to get formal suicide prevention training to help reduce the rate.
Boozman has been a relentless advocate for preventing veteran suicides. He authored the IMPROVE Well-Being for Veterans Act, critical bipartisan legislation to enhance outreach to veterans in the community through grants, improve coordination of veteran mental health and suicide prevention services and better measure the effectiveness of these programs in order to reduce the alarming number of veteran suicides.
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.
The legislation was included as a provision in the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019, a comprehensive bill that expands veterans’ access to mental health services that recently passed the Senate VA Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Senate.