(U.S. Senate) – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester issued the following statement today after the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released its National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, revealing a decrease in veteran suicides from 2019 to 2020. For the second year in a row, the veteran suicide rate decreased, including a 9.7 percent decrease from 2018 to 2020:
“This is positive news for the nation’s veterans and our country. With the veteran suicide rate decreasing for a second year in a row, it’s clear VA is having real success getting more veterans into care and using the Hannon Act to improve mental health and suicide prevention efforts across the nation. Make no mistake, we have a lot of work to do, so I’ll keep fighting to connect more veterans with the life-saving tools and support they need and earned.”
The new report showed a decrease from 2019 to 2020 in the total number of veteran suicide deaths and a decrease in the rate of veteran suicides. Specifically, VA reported that there were 6,146 veteran suicide deaths in 2020, the lowest number since 2006. Of the 16.8 veterans who died by suicide per day on average in 2020, about 60 percent of them had no recent interaction with the VA health care system. The data also revealed the women veteran suicide rate decreased by almost 14.1 percent—the lowest rate since 2013.
As a part of VA’s comprehensive efforts to end veteran suicide, VA also announced the grantees for the Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grant Program, a first-of-its-kind program created under Senator Tester’s historic Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act (Hannon Act) that provides federal funding for local suicide prevention programs. As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester secured $174 million in funding for the grant program. Organizations were able to apply for up to $750,000 in grants, which are renewable on an annual basis by application. Montana was selected for three grants, for a total of $2.15 million.
As Chairman, Tester is continuing to work to strengthen veterans’ mental health resources by spearheading bipartisan legislation such as the Support The Resilience of Our Nation’s Great (STRONG) Veterans Act, which would strengthen life-saving tools like the Veterans Crisis Line, expand care options, and support mental health research at VA.