WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee joined his colleagues in challenging the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to aggressively increase its efforts to connect veterans in Ohio and across the country with critical mental health care.
Last month, VA released new data detailing an increase in suicide rates among veterans in 2017.
In a letter to Secretary Robert Wilkie, Brown pressed VA to implement proactive measures aimed at addressing the concerning number of veteran suicides. Brown also expressed urgency in increasing the Department's efforts to protect and promote veterans' well-being. The letter was led by Sen. John Tester (D-MT) and signed by Brown and Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).
“Statistics and experience show that there are many known risk factors that increase a veteran’s risk for suicide,” wrote the Senators. “Therefore, we urge VA to implement aggressive measures to improve veterans’ mental health… We must be assured that VA is doing all that it can to reach veterans at highest risk before the point of crisis.”
The Senators also called on VA to deploy mental health care and suicide prevention resources to vulnerable populations including rural, women, and younger veterans. They also questioned the Department’s strategies and requested VA expand outreach to women veterans and members of the National Guard and Reserve who were never federally activated.
Brown and his colleagues additionally highlighted the need to streamline mortality data collection, analysis, and dissemination in order to better understand the scope of the veteran suicide crisis across the nation.
Brown’s full letter can be read here.