Congresswoman Elaine Luria demands stronger VA efforts to prevent veteran suicide

Elaine LuriaLast night at a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing, Congresswoman Elaine Luria (VA-02) challenged top VA officials on the fact that they could not answer basic questions about VA’s low benchmark of success for preventing veteran suicide.

Questioning Dr. Keita Franklin, VA’s National Director for Suicide Prevention, and Dr. Richard Stone, Executive in Charge at the Veterans Health Administration, Congresswoman Luria asked the officials if they were aware of VA’s benchmark percentage for success in executing interventions and follow-up care for veterans considered at “high risk” for suicide.

Both VA officials were unable to cite the benchmark – 65 percent. Congresswoman Luria found this benchmark inadequate in light of Dr. Stone’s earlier comment that his No. 1 priority is curbing veteran suicide.

“Seemingly, 65 percent is a relatively low measure of effectiveness for your No. 1 priority, would you agree?” Congresswoman Luria asked Dr. Stone.

Dr. Stone replied that he was “not familiar” with VA’s own benchmark and would “take a look at it.”

The special hearing came on the heels of too many veteran suicides across America, including one outside a Cleveland VA hospital on Monday. VA has said approximately 20 veterans die by suicide every day.

A 20-year Navy veteran herself, Congresswoman Luria later referred to news coverage that said VA recently failed to spend millions of dollars intended to curb veteran suicide, specifically greenlighting only $1.5 million out of the $6.2 million allocated for paid media buys.

“Everyone knows one veteran suicide is too many,” Congresswoman Luria said after the hearing. “But I am truly disappointed at the lack of answers Congress is getting from VA – and their spotty outreach to veterans in crisis. I am glad our Committee has made curbing veteran suicide a top priority. Now VA officials themselves must join us.”

Lifeline

If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 across the United States at 1-800-273-8255.

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