Ranking Member Bost Delivers Opening Remarks at Hearing to Review VA and Community-Based Organizations’ Efforts to Prevent Veteran Suicide
Today, Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, delivered the following opening remarks, as prepared, at the start of today’s oversight hearing to assess the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) national veteran suicide prevention annual report and discuss community-based organizations’ efforts to combat veteran suicide around the country:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good morning, everyone.
I am glad to be here today to discuss a very important topic - veteran suicide prevention.
Suicide is a complex, difficult public health problem.
Last week, V.A. released the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Report that contains veteran suicide information from 2020.
According to V.A., veteran suicide decreased by 343 individuals from 2019 to 2020.
This brings the total number of veteran suicide deaths down to 16.8 per day in 2020.
But sadly, it is yet another year with more than 6,000 veteran suicide deaths.
In contrast, America’s Warrior Partnership recently completed a study that indicates that V.A. is likely undercounting veteran suicide deaths.
A.W.P. arrived at this conclusion by looking closer at state specific demographics, military experience, and death details.
According to A.W.P., the actual number of veterans who died by suicide between 2014 and 2018 was closer to 24 per day.
In comparison, V.A.’s data showed 17.7 veteran suicide deaths per day over that same time frame.
Unlike A.W.P.’s study, V.A. data does not include deaths by overdose or certain injuries, which are likely considered accidents.
Admittedly, that data is hard to capture, but the scope is sobering.
And, either way, both numbers are unfathomable and unacceptable.
It is our responsibility as members of this Committee to do everything in our power to support veterans, and to make sure they have what they need to heal and move forward.
That’s why Congress acted two years ago to create the Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grant Program.
The Fox grants will expand support for suicide prevention outside of V.A.’s walls and into local communities.
We know that most veterans who die by suicide are not actively engaged in V.A. care.
Every effort must be made to reach veterans where and when they need help.
Community partners can be there to save lives.
V.A. announced the first Fox grant recipients last week, and some of them will testify today on our second panel.
One of those witnesses is Jim Lorraine, the C.E.O. of A.W.P., who is testifying today for the Minority.
By taking on this sacred responsibility, he and his fellow second panelists are yet another resource ready to:
• Lift veterans out of isolation;
• Get them out of trouble;
• And get them to the care that can save their lives.
I look forward to listening to, and learning from, them today.
If you are a veteran watching this right now who needs help, please know help is available to you anytime by:
• calling 9-8-8 and pressing 1;
• texting 8-3-8-2-5-5;
• or visiting veterans crisis line dot net.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
If you or a veteran you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 988 and Press 1, text 838255, or visit http://VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.