WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, held an oversight hearing today on veteran suicide and mental health issues. Akaka, who has championed a number of veterans’ mental health and suicide-prevention bills which are now law, sought to hear from veterans and VA leadership on the implementation of these measures.
“Just as we must provide our troops with the equipment and tools they need when they are sent to battle, we must do more to help veterans battle the enemy of mental illness,” said Akaka. “VA has made important improvements in recent years, but we must continue to work until what now seems impossible becomes a reality: that no veteran who returns from service is lost to suicide.”
Akaka is the author of the Veterans’ Mental Health and Other Care Improvements Act (Public Law 110-387), a sweeping veterans’ mental health bill passed in 2008 to address the dual issues of substance abuse and PTSD among veterans. This legislation paid tribute to Justin Bailey, a veteran who died of a drug overdose while receiving treatment from VA for PTSD and substance abuse. Akaka also cosponsored the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act, passed in 2007 to improve VA’s suicide prevention efforts and establish a counseling hotline that has led to over a thousand rescues.
The hearing witnesses drew from firsthand knowledge to discuss the challenges faced by veterans with invisible wounds, which sometimes produce tragic consequences. Mr. Daniel Hanson, an Iraq war veteran, discussed his difficult road from attempted suicide to recovery, to which he largely credited a year-plus residential recovery program outside of VA. A witness from VA’s suicide prevention hotline described the successful rescue of a veteran who had attempted to take his own life.
March 3, 2010