We are extremely disappointed by VA’s mismanagement of funding for such an important program in the face of a suicide crisis among veterans. Outreach is absolutely critical to the success of suicide prevention efforts and—as this is VA’s top clinical priority—we would expect much closer oversight to ensure the funds are being properly directed to effective campaign strategies. VA offers great mental health programs, but they are rendered useless in actually preventing suicide if veterans and family members don’t know they exist or are unable to access them.
One of the major problems that has led to this failure, and others across the board, is the persistence of vacancies in VA’s key leadership positions. There are currently a large number of high-level VA positions being filled by acting directors—including the roles of undersecretary for health and principal deputy undersecretary for health—that must be permanently filled in order to allow for comprehensive vision and strategy to be executed throughout the department.
In the interim, we would like to hear from Secretary Wilkie about what can be done to expeditiously get these critical, life-saving outreach efforts back on track so veterans in need of help are not being lost in the suicide crisis.