Crapo, Risch and colleagues call on VA to tackle impact of withdrawal from Afghanistan on veterans’ mental health

0

August 31, 2021

Senators Call on VA to Increase Awareness of Veterans of Afghanistan and the Global War on Terrorism by Providing Access to Mental Health Care and Services

Washington DC–U.S. Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch (both R-Idaho) joined Senators Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Bill Cassidy, MD (R-Louisiana), Raphael Warnock (D -Georgia) and 29 additional Senators to call on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to develop and promptly conduct outreach to veterans of the Global War on Terror – especially those who served in Afghanistan – in providing them with mental health resources. Their call to action comes as reports find calls to veterans suicide helplines increased since the fall of Kabul earlier this month.

“We are writing in light of recent events in Afghanistan to encourage the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to rapidly develop a comprehensive outreach plan to connect veterans of Afghanistan and the Global War on Terrorism to benefits and services of VA ” wrote the senators. “Over two million veterans served in the Global War on Terror, including over 800,000 in Afghanistan, and these servicemen deserve and have received the support they need. We appreciate the VA’s commitment to providing mental health services to all veterans and ask, in light of the current situation, that the department accelerate its efforts to provide resources to veterans of these recent conflicts.

In their letter, the senators note that veterans between the ages of 18 and 34 have the highest suicide rate among veterans and that many veterans do not use the services of the Veterans Health Administration, which provides numerous mental health resources aimed at preventing military suicide.

“For this reason, we ask that the VA develop a comprehensive outreach plan to connect veterans of Afghanistan and the Global War on Terrorism with VA benefits and services. This plan is to proactively reach out to veterans over the next several months through means including, but not limited to: digital correspondence, social media, phone calls and text messages, ” the senators continued. “In addition, VA outreach should consist of detailed information about clinical mental health services and community support systems, such as veteran service organizations (VSOs) and VA veterinary centers. For example, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is just one of many VSOs that help connect veterans with services essential to mental health and general well-being.

“It has been an incredibly difficult time for the Veterans and VA community to ensure that there is a sustainable and comprehensive plan to reach out to Veterans and connect them with potentially vital resources both within the VA and through. through VSOs, such as veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. America’s Rapid Reaction Force (QRF) (IAVA), ”said Jeremy Butler, CEO of IAVA. “We thank Senators Maggie Hassan, Joni Ernst, Bill Cassidy and Raphael Warnock and all senators who signed this important letter to ensure the VA is doing all it can to help our veterans during this difficult time. ”

The other co-signers of the letter are Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Mike Braun (R-Indiana), Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia), Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada), Steve Daines (R-Montana), Dick Durbin (D -Illinois), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado), John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), Mark Kelly (D-Arizona), Amy Klobuchar (D -Minnesota), Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), Doc Marshall (R-Kansas), Gary Peters (D-Michigan), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island), Jacky Rosen (D- Nevada), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minnesota), John Thune (R-South Dakota), Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Ron Wyden (D -Oregon).

See the full text of the letter here and lower.

Dear Secretary McDonough:

We are writing in light of recent events in Afghanistan to encourage the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to quickly develop a comprehensive outreach plan to connect veterans of Afghanistan and the Global War on Terrorism to the benefits and services of GO. Over two million veterans served in the global war on terrorism, including over 800,000 in Afghanistan, and these soldiers deserve and have received the support they need. We appreciate the VA’s commitment to providing mental health services to all veterans and ask, in light of the current situation, that the department accelerate its efforts to provide resources to veterans of these recent conflicts.

The VA recently sent correspondence with digital links to veterans encouraging them to seek help if they are experiencing distress related to their service in Afghanistan or if they need mental health services. This is a first step, but the VA must go beyond this initial awareness. As you know, veterans between the ages of 18 and 34 have the highest suicide rate among former military personnel.[1] Beyond that, the National VA Veterans Suicide Prevention Annual Report repeatedly states that veterans, including those who served in Afghanistan, are not using Veterans Health Administration services aimed at reducing suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.[2]

For this reason, we ask that the VA develop a comprehensive outreach plan to connect veterans of Afghanistan and the Global War on Terrorism with VA benefits and services. This plan is to proactively reach out to veterans over the next several months through means including, but not limited to: digital correspondence, social media, phone calls and text messages. In addition, VA outreach should consist of detailed information about clinical mental health services and community support systems, such as veteran service organizations (VSOs) and VA veterinary centers. For example, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is just one of many VSOs that help connect veterans with services essential to mental health and general well-being. Emphasis should also be placed on matching veterans with localized support and resources.

As a country, we must keep the physical and mental well-being of our veterans at the forefront of our minds and efforts. Especially given the constant media coverage and disturbing images coming from Afghanistan, we ask for your commitment to develop a comprehensive awareness plan for our global war on terrorism, and in particular our Afghan veterans. We must fulfill our obligation to those who have served and never forget their sacrifices.

Truly,

###


Source link

Share.

Leave A Reply