Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Urges Administration to Release Presidents’ Roadmap Addressing Veteran Suicides
Pandemic Induced Spike in Mental Health Needs Underscores Importance of Government Action to Include Passage of the John Scott Hannon Act
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 5, 2020
New York, NY – Fifteen months after the creation of the Administration’s PREVENTS Task Force, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) is eager to review President Trump’s roadmap on preventing veteran suicide that was reportedly delayed due to the pandemic.
On March 5, 2019, President Trump signed Executive Order 13861 creating an interagency task force to lead the development and implementation of a national, comprehensive roadmap to change how our nation treats mental health and understands suicide prevention. Per EO 13861, the Task Force had a self-imposed deadline of March 5, 2020 to complete the following:
- Develop and submit to the President the roadmap to empower veterans to pursue an improved quality of life, prevent suicide, prioritize related research activities, and strengthen collaboration across the public and private sectors. The roadmap shall analyze opportunities to better harmonize existing efforts within Federal, State, local, territorial, and tribal governments, and non-governmental entities.
- Submit a legislative proposal to the President through the Director of the Office of Management and Budget that establishes a program for making grants to local communities to enable them to increase their capacity to collaborate with each other to integrate service delivery to veterans and to coordinate resources for veterans.
- Develop a national research strategy to improve the coordination, monitoring, benchmarking, and execution of public- and private-sector research related to the factors that contribute to veteran suicide.
During testimony before the House Appropriations VA subcommittee last week, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie announced that the roadmap would be released on June 14th and would also include plans to combat veteran homelessness and addiction. However, that date no longer appears to be accurate and little clarity has been provided on the actual release date or plans.
“The tragedy of veteran and military suicide is a problem that is not getting better despite years of attention,” said Jeremy Butler, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “In fact, it is likely that the ongoing and pervasive effects of the coronavirus pandemic are only exacerbating an already tragic situation. We are seeing an exponential increase in the stressors that can lead to the onset and worsening of mental health conditions such as job loss, homelessness and compounding medical conditions. While it is easy to use the pandemic as an excuse to delay action, the reality is that our veterans – and the country as a whole – need increased access to and support from mental health care professionals now more than ever.”
The pandemic has spiked veteran unemployment. On top of the existing economic and social pressures veterans face, COVID-19 can mean disaster if more resources are not made available to veterans. We urge the Administration to push forward on their work to assist veterans in need, especially in this time of crisis.
While the veteran community waits for the Administration to release its overdue roadmap, IAVA has taken action to assist veterans immediately. In April, IAVA launched its Quick Reaction Force consolidated-care program. The program is geared towards providing veterans with free, anonymous, and timely assistance with a focus on easy access to care and long-term solutions so meaningful change is made.
IAVA also urges congress to pass the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act which includes a vital provision to find and treat at-risk veterans who do not use the VA, ensuring that every veteran has access to quality resources and care. Passage of this bill would mean more could be done for veterans in addressing mental health needs.
Founded by an Iraq veteran in 2004, IAVA is the non-partisan leader inadvocacy,public awareness and1-on-1 care management and peer support. We organizelocally, drive historic impacts nationally and fight for over 400,000 veterans and their allies nationwide. If a veteran or their family is in need of assistance now, please reach out to IAVA’s Quick Reaction Force at quickreactionforce.org or 1-855-91RAPID (855-917-2743) to be connected promptly with a veteran care manager who will assist you.