October 10, 2018
It's deeply troubling that our service men and women might return home
from battle only to take their own lives because they are tortured by something
they experienced during their service. I asked the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) how they
are working with the Department of Defense (DOD) to curb veteran suicide during a meeting of the Veterans' Affairs Committee.
I was joined by the Somers family from Coronado, who lost
their son, Daniel, to suicide after he suffered post-traumatic stress (PTS) following his service in Iraq. They are now tireless advocates for fixing and reforming the
broken health care system at the VA.
Watch my remarks here.
The National Director of Suicide Prevention for the VA said they
would like more information from the DOD about risk factors for suicide. The VA
could identify mental health issues sooner if they had access to information
about servicemembers’ promotions, disciplinary action, and family support
I also asked what kind of
outreach was being done for veterans with other than honorable discharges. Only
115 servicemembers nationwide are enrolled in suicide prevention programs
specifically tailored to them, and the VA agreed more outreach was needed.
San Diego has the third largest population of veterans in the country, many of whom are battling mental health issues. Veterans who have experienced homelessness in the last year are particularly at risk, with suicide rates almost double those of veterans without a history of homelessness. We’ve made progress with the HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, which assists San Diego veterans in their search for affordable housing, but there is still work to be done.
I will continue fighting for mental health care and homelessness services for San Diego veterans and will work with both the VA and the DOD to find solutions that ensure we don’t lose another veteran to suicide.