Chairman Takano Statement on VA’s 2020 Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report
Jenni Geurink | (202-819-4684)
Miguel R. Salazar
WASHINGTON, D.C — Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) released the following statement in response to VA’s 2020 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Reportdetailing the first two years of the Trump Administration’s efforts to reduce veteran suicide.
“While the Veterans’ COMPACT Act and Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Improvement Act were major steps forward in the fight to reduce veteran suicide, there’s still so much more we need to do-- and this year’s report underscores that need.
“Sadly, even as the overall number of veterans in the United States has decreased, the rate of veteran suicide still increased. This year’s report confirms two points we already knew to be true – veterans connected with VHA are less likely to die by suicide, and firearms continue to play a disproportionate role in the these deaths.
“Earlier this year, our Committee proposed three pieces of legislation to address these problems and VA opposed each of them. We proposed dramatically expanding VA's lethal means safety training and counseling – and today, VA officials noted that ‘decreasing death by firearms could in turn, turn the corner on veteran suicide’ and save veteran lives immediately. Because we know that veterans not accessing VA healthcare have much higher rates of suicide, we proposed requiring community mental health providers receive training on veteran-specific care and more stringent requirements are met for community organizations receiving VA grants for suicide prevention.
“Surprisingly, in September, when HVAC advanced these legislative proposals, VA declined to testify before the Committee and did not release preliminary data found in this report that would have shown the urgent need for this legislation. It is frustrating that a report of this magnitude, with the potential to save veterans’ lives and demonstrate key lessons learned from the current administration’s response to veteran suicide, would be delayed without cause.
“This Committee will not hesitate to continue our fight for expanded lethal means training, community provider training, outreach, and expanded coverage for those most at risk for suicide like women veterans, LGBTQ veterans, Native veterans, and veterans of color.
“Our veterans are not political fodder to be toyed with – as long as 17 veterans die by suicide each day, our work will not be complete.”
If you or a veteran you know are struggling, contact the Veteran Crisis Line 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 and select option 1, or text 838255.
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