Millions Of Dollars Budgeted For Suicide Outreach To Veterans Goes Unspent Even As Rates Continue To Rise
A GAO report released this week says that bureaucratic confusion and vacancies in key posts are largely to blame for the Department of Veterans Affairs' failure to support suicide prevention efforts.
The New York Times:
Suicide Among Veterans Is Rising. But Millions For Outreach Went Unspent By V.A.
Suicide prevention efforts by the Department of Veterans Affairs fell off sharply in the last two years, even though reducing the high suicide rate among veterans is the agency’s top clinical priority, according to a new report. With the department’s top management in turmoil, the suicide prevention effort lacked leadership, planning meetings were repeatedly canceled, millions of dollars budgeted for outreach went unspent, and the television and radio ads that had been broadcast thousands of times across the country in previous years went all but silent. (Philipps, 12/18)
The Washington Post:
Trump’s VA Vowed To Stop Veteran Suicide. Its Leaders Failed To Spend Millions Set Aside To Reach Those At Risk.
As the number of veterans taking their own lives climbed, VA’s media outreach plunged in fiscal years 2017 and 2018 — with fewer social media posts, public service announcements and paid advertisements compared with the agency’s efforts during the Obama administration, auditors said. About 20 veterans die by suicide every day, VA data shows. That’s nearly twice the suicide rate among Americans who did not serve in the military. VA set aside $6.2 million this year alone to advertise its crisis hotline — the centerpiece of its suicide-prevention efforts — online, on billboards, buses and trains, and via local and national radio commercials. But as of September, the agency had spent $57,000 — less than 1 percent of that budget, auditors wrote. (Rein, 12/18)
VA Left Millions Unspent For Veterans Suicide Prevention: GAO
The department's use of social media for veterans suicide prevention outreach also dropped in fiscal years 2017 and 2018, the report found. After developing 339 pieces of social media content for veterans suicide prevention in President Obama's final year in office in 2016, the department posted 159 pieces of content in fiscal year 2017 and had made 47 posts in fiscal year 2018 as of July 2018. Officials at the Veterans Health Administration, the health-care branch of the department, told the GAO that the drop off in suicide prevention media outreach was because of leadership turnover dating back to 2017. (Burke, 12/18)