(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, attended a hearing to examine mental health and suicide among veterans. According to recent data, suicide rates have continued to increase among female veterans who use VA care and among male veterans ages 18-24 who use VA, the rate has skyrocketed to 79 per 100,000.
“There is no issue as pressing as providing quality, timely mental health care and suicide prevention programs to our nation’s heroes. The problem is familiar to all of us, but the solutions still seem elusive,” Senator Murray said at the hearing. “Just one suicide, just one veteran in crisis, or just one family struggling to make it through is just one too much.”
Senator Murray’s full remarks as prepared:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing today. There is no issue as pressing as providing quality, timely mental health care and suicide prevention programs to our nation’s heroes. The problem is familiar to all of us, but the solutions still seem elusive.
“Twenty-two veterans per day die by suicide. Rates have continued to increase among female veterans who use VA care. Among male veterans age 18 to 24 who use VA, the rate has skyrocketed to 79 per 100,000. And finally, according to VA’s access data, wait times for new mental health patients are virtually unchanged -- at 36 days -- over the five months that VA has provided this data.
“Mr. Chairman, I am very concerned about whether VA and local communities are prepared with the resources, policies, and training to help veterans in serious crisis. When our men and women in uniform have the courage to come forward and ask for help, VA must be there with not only high quality and timely care, but also the right type of care to best meet the veteran’s needs. We must demand progress on each of these areas.
“Mr. Chairman, a few months ago we passed a VA reform bill to help veterans get into care. It included a temporary authority to improve access to community providers for veterans having trouble accessing VA care. However, a recent report by the RAND Corporation raises serious concerns about whether private sector providers are ready to give high quality care to veterans. It suggests we need to do more to expand use of evidence-based treatments - and much more to help providers understand the unique needs and culture of servicemembers and veterans. The reform bill also included critically needed funds to build and strengthen the VA for the long-term.
“But there will be more needs going forward. VA must start planning and requesting the necessary resources now, so it will be prepared to meet the growing demand for mental health care far into the future. There is clearly much, much more work to be done.
“Just one suicide, just one veteran in crisis, or just one family struggling to make it through is just one too much. So I want to take a moment to thank Mrs. Selke, Mrs. Pallotta and Mr. and Mrs. Vanata for being here today. It’s incredibly difficult to talk about these issues. We admire your courage and your strength for being willing to share your stories with us.
“Thank you, and your family, for your service and sacrifice to our nation.
“Mr. Chairman, I hope as we head into a new Congress that stories like theirs will continue to be told as we work together to fulfill the promises we have made to those who have served. Thank you.”