ILLINOIS CONGRESSWOMAN PRESSES VA HEALTH OFFICIALS ON SOLUTIONS TO ADDRESS VETERAN SUICIDE CRISIS

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[Veteran Suicide Crisis\Illinois Rep. Underwood]
Rep. Underwood: “Our veterans have sacrificed so much for us, so it’s essential that we work to make sure they receive the best possible health care when they return home."
Photo: Facebook

Thursday, in a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, Illinois Congresswoman Lauren Underwood pressed health officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on how Congress can help support their effort to end the veteran suicide crisis.

During the hearing, Underwood questioned witnesses about their work to identify and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the quality of VA care being provided to veterans. Underwood highlighted that national vacancies in the mental health and suicide prevention workforce, including VA facilities, are a critical challenge for veterans seeking care in some communities. Along with this, Underwood emphasized the importance of lethal means safety training for VA providers and staff who interact with veterans in crisis.

Our veterans have sacrificed so much for us, so it’s essential that we work to make sure they receive the best possible health care when they return home,” said Underwood. “As a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and as a public health nurse, I know just how important it is to advance solutions to the veteran suicide crisis that are data-driven and evidence-based. Identifying strengths and weaknesses in VA care allows us to focus on areas that require the most immediate attention. I will not quit until all veterans receive the care that they have earned through their sacrifice and service to our nation.”

As a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Underwood has made addressing the veteran suicide crisis a top priority in her work to support veterans. Just last week, Underwood sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Under Secretary for Benefits Paul Lawrence requesting additional information on the level of training Veterans Benefits Administration contractors receive for suicide prevention.

In the letter, Underwood inquired into VA’s plans to expand or update suicide prevention training and protocols for both VA and contracted clinicians and examiners. In April 2019, Underwood introduced the Veterans’ Care Quality Transparency Act to ensure veterans are receiving high-quality mental health and suicide prevention services at the VA and outside providers. This legislation passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support in May. Additionally, in September, Underwood introduced the Post-9/11 Veteran Suicide Prevention Counseling Act to offer proactive screening and counseling to address the unique needs of post-9/11 veterans.

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