Casey, Gillibrand Want More to be
Done to Prevent Veteran Suicides

WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) joined a bipartisan group of senators to call on Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki to do more to stem the “unacceptable” level of suicides among veterans currently estimated to be 18 per day. The call came in a letter sent to the Administration.

“After sending service members to war, we have the responsibility to care for our veterans,” Senator Casey said. “With an alarming veteran suicide rate of eighteen per day, and around one thousand attempts per month, the Department of Veterans Affairs needs to take account of the suicide prevention programs that currently exist and find ways improve them so that all of our returning veterans receive the care, training and support they need and deserve. We stand ready to give them the necessary assistance to do so.”

The letter was also signed by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jerry Moran (R-KS).

A copy of the letter is below:

Dear Secretary Shinseki:

We write to express our extreme concern about the suicide rate among veterans enrolled within the Department of Veterans Affairs, a concern we know that you share. Media sources report a rate of eighteen veteran suicides per day, with around 1,000 additional attempted suicides every month. We are sure you share our opinion that this rate is unacceptable.

In his testimony before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Deputy Secretary Gould answered a question from the Chair on behalf of the Department about the recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in May that ordered you to work with the courts to revamp the mental health care. While Deputy Secretary Gould contested statistical points cited in the ruling related to the Department’s overall capacity, he conceded, “there are things the VA can do better, especially in terms of reaching veterans in rural areas.”

We are confident the Department will make wise decisions about its mental health system going forward as you work tirelessly on lowering the veteran suicide rate. We believe the only measure of success on this issue will be a substantial reduction in the rate of veteran suicides and ask that you provide us with your plan to address this grave concern. We ask that you review the current suicide prevention programs and let us know what adjustments are needed to make such programs more effective. We look forward to your recommendations to achieve this result.

Sincerely,

Chris Coons
Johnny Isakson
Kristen Gillibrand
Bob Corker
Bob Casey, Jr.
Jerry Moran

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