VA left millions unspent for veterans suicide prevention: GAO

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) left millions of dollars unspent that were available for suicide prevention efforts this year, according to a report released Monday.

The report, published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), found that the VA had $6.2 million available for suicide prevention paid media in fiscal 2018. The department had spent just $57,000 of that budget as of September, the report found.

The GAO report notes that the VA identified suicide prevention as its highest clinical priority in 2018.

ADVERTISEMENT
 

The department's use of social media for veterans suicide prevention outreach also dropped in fiscal 2017 and 2018, the report found. After developing 339 pieces of social media content for veterans suicide prevention in former 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 2018 as of July 2018.

Officials at the Veterans Health Administration, the health-care branch of the department, told the GAO that the drop in suicide prevention media outreach was because of leadership turnover dating back to 2017.

The GAO recommended in its report that the VA develop an approach for overseeing its suicide prevention media outreach and develop metric targets for that outreach.

Rep. Tim WalzTimothy (Tim) James WalzMinnesota program will pay homeowners to transform lawns into bee gardens as species inches closer to extinction Minnesota governor signs law making marital rape illegal New governors chart ambitious paths in first 100 days MORE (D-Minn.), the ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, told the Military Times that the VA "has failed" to do enough to "inform the public about the resources available to veterans in crisis."

“At a time when 20 veterans a day still die by suicide, VA should be doing everything in its power to inform the public about the resources available to veterans in crisis,” Walz said. “Unfortunately, VA has failed to do that, despite claiming the elimination of veteran suicide as its highest clinical priority.”