A bipartisan group of 34 senators sent an urgent message to the Department of Veterans Affairs calling on them to help struggling Afghanistan veterans.
The senators, led by Maggine Hassan (D-NH) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), are urging the VA to “quickly develop a comprehensive outreach plan” to help Afghanistan and Global War on Terror veterans get their VA services and benefits.
Their call for action comes after a new report was released that shows an increase in calls to veterans’ suicide hotlines amid the turmoil in Afghanistan.
“We write in light of the recent events in Afghanistan to encourage the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to quickly develop a comprehensive outreach plan to connect Afghanistan and Global War on Terrorism veterans to VA benefits and services,” the senators stated.
“More than two million veterans served during the Global War on Terrorism, including more than 800,000 in Afghanistan, and these service members deserve and earned the support that they need. We appreciate the VA’s commitment to providing mental health services to all veterans and ask, in light of the current situation, that the Department accelerate its efforts to provide resources – to veterans of these recent conflicts.”
The senators noted that the group with the highest suicide rates are former service members between the ages of 18 to 34. They went on to say that many veterans are not using the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) services which are meant to help prevent suicide among veterans. So now they are urging the VA to do more.
“For this reason, we ask that the VA develop a comprehensive outreach plan to connect Afghanistan and Global War on Terrorism veterans to VA benefits and services. This plan must proactively contact veterans in the coming months through means including, but not be limited to: digital correspondence, social media, phone calls, and text messages,” the senators said.
“Furthermore, VA’s outreach should consist of detailed information on clinical mental health services and community-based support systems, such as Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and VA Vet Centers. For example, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is just one of many VSOs that helps connect veterans to services critical to mental health and overall well-being.”