Bennet, Colleagues Demand VA Accountability for Misuse of Suicide Prevention Funds

Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, with 20 Senate colleagues, demanded answers from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary about the department’s misuse of resources for suicide prevention outreach.

A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that the VA’s suicide prevention outreach to at-risk veterans suffered from poor leadership, misuse of outreach resources, and a lack of trackable targets for evaluation of prevention efforts. Of the $6.2 million allocated to paid suicide prevention outreach, such as promoted social media posts and sponsored keyword search results, the VA only spent $57,000—less than one percent of its budget.

In a letter, the senators demanded a full accounting of the VA's budget for suicide prevention and mental health outreach and for the VA to consult with public and mental health outreach experts on how to better track the VA's performance.

"As suicide prevention is the VA's highest clinical priority and the third highest priority in its 2018-2024 Strategic Plan, it is appalling that the VA is not conducting oversight of its own outreach efforts," the senators wrote.

"We request that you provide a full accounting of the $17.7 million the VA budgeted for its suicide prevention and mental health media outreach for Fiscal Year 2018. We also request that rather than rely strictly on metrics the VA develops internally, that you consult with experts with proven track records of successful public and mental health outreach campaigns with a particular emphasis on how those individuals measure success,” the senators continued.

A copy of the letter is available HERE.