U.S. SENATE—U.S. Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) yesterday asked Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie to improve Native Americans veterans’ access to mental health care in an effort to reduce the number of Native veteran suicides.
During an U.S. Committee on Indian Affairs hearing on honoring a nation’s promise to Native veterans, McSally specifically highlighted the lack of proper, useful statistics on Native veteran suicide.
“This is just unacceptable that those who took their oath of office and were willing to put their lives on the line return home after surviving battle only to take their own lives,” McSally said. “More has to be done specifically for Native American veterans. My understanding is that even in the data collection they’re listed as ‘other’ so we don’t even understand what the scope of the problem is specifically for Native American veterans who are at risk for suicide or who have committed suicide.”
“I just want to follow up on how we’re gathering data. If we don’t know what the problem is, we don’t know how to fix the problem.”
Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie said: “This is our number one clinical priority.”
Later in the hearing, Secretary Wilkie committed to working with the senators to collect accurate data on Native American veteran suicide.
McSally is a cosponsor of the Improve Well-Being for Veterans Act that would require the VA to provide grants to community groups administering suicide prevention services to veterans including those who do not normally go to VA facilities.
On November 19, McSally urged Secretary Wilkie to prioritize patient care at the Phoenix VA and Northern Arizona VA hospitals while working diligently to find suitable, qualified directors.
On November 5, McSally introduced bipartisan legislation to expand access to veteran treatment courts and allow those who served our nation to receive the care they need.
On March 12, McSally and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) highlighted Arizona’s “Be Connected” program and pressed the VA on instituting meaningful action on veteran suicide.