Washington, D.C. - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, with a group of bipartisan, Western senators, today sent a letter to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David J. Shulkin requesting information on how the VA is addressing the high veteran suicide rate across the Western United States.
Government data released last month showed that the veteran suicide rate throughout the West, especially in rural areas, is higher than the rest of the country.
"We are deeply concerned both by the ongoing incidence of suicide and by the fact that suicide rates in Western states and rural areas are higher than the national veteran suicide rate across almost every age group," the senators wrote. "There is still more work to be done and we want to work with you and all concerned stakeholders to do more to address this public health crisis."
To provide increased transparency for veterans, the senators requested answers to questions about steps the VA will take "to prevent further loss of life by suicide in Western states and stop the disproportionately high suicide rate in Western states." They also requested more information about emergency mental health care and sexual assault services.
In addition to Bennet, the following senators signed the letter: Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Dean Heller (R-NV), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Steve Daines (R-MT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT).
A copy of the letter can be found HERE.