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Photo by Ian Hutchinson.
U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) is urging the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to advance legislation supporting a comprehensive approach to addressing the veteran suicide crisis.
In a hearing Wednesday, Boozman pressed Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) officials on the need for a more complete picture of the factors contributing to veteran suicide to help save more lives.
Boozman and Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced the Not Just a Number Act earlier this year that would require the VA to expand its data collection to examine the relationship between VA benefits and suicide outcomes as well as analyze which benefits have the greatest impact on preventing suicide.
“I believe that the issue is more complex than just viewing it from a clinical perspective. There are other root causes of suicide we need to be looking at such as food insecurity, lack of housing and financial strain,” Boozman said.
In testimony before the committee, Dr. Matthew Miller, Director of the Suicide Prevention Program in the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, agreed on the importance of understanding correlations between Veterans Benefit Association programs and clinical care that prevent veterans from taking their lives.
Watch Boozman’s questions about the need for improvements to VA’s suicide prevention initiatives
The Not Just a Number Act builds on Boozman’s veteran suicide prevention efforts to enable the VA to conduct additional suicide prevention outreach through veteran-serving non-profits and support successful measures with federal grants. The Boozman-authored provision was included in legislation expanding veterans’ access to mental health services that was signed into law in 2020.