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Reps. Gallego and O’Halleran Applaud Inclusion of Veteran Suicide Prevention Language in Appropriations Bill

May 10, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – This week, the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2020 Military, Construction, and Veterans’ Affairs Appropriations Bill with language spearheaded by Reps. Ruben Gallego (AZ-07) and Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01).

The language ensures that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs will improve the effectiveness of its suicide prevention outreach campaign. It also requires the VA to provide Congress with a plan on how it will effectively spend its new suicide prevention funding.

In December, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report which found serious issues with how the VA Office of Suicide Prevention and Mental Health (OSPMH) managed its suicide prevention outreach campaign, including that it had only spend $57,000 of its $6.2 million budget during the first 10 months of FY 2018.

Earlier this year, Reps. Gallego and O’Halleran sent a letter to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs requesting an oversight hearing on veteran suicide prevention.

“I am proud that our provision holding the VA’s suicide prevention outreach campaign accountable will be included in this year’s Appropriations bill,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq. “It is imperative that every veteran knows about what resources are available to them. Yet it is disturbing that 14 of the 20 veterans who commit suicide every day are not using VA services, and our current efforts are failing to reach the majority of veterans in need. We can never allow the VA’s gross mismanagement of these funds to ever happen again. These investments save lives.”

“The brave men and women who serve and sacrifice for our nation deserve to be supported when they return home. Unfortunately, that is not always happening, and too many veterans are left to struggle alone,” said Rep. O’Halleran. “I am pleased to see our efforts to strengthen suicide prevention outreach were included in this Appropriations bill, and we must continue to address this crisis our returning servicemembers are facing.”

The language to be included is as follows:

Suicide Prevention Paid Media GAO Report.—The Committee is concerned with the findings of the GAO report entitled, ‘‘Improvements Needed in Suicide Prevention Media Outreach Campaign Oversight and Evaluation’’ (GAO–19–66), which found that VHA had only spent $57,000 of its $6,200,000 fiscal year 2018 budget for suicide prevention paid media as of September 2018. In accordance with the GAO report, the Committee recommends that the Office of Suicide Prevention and Mental Health (OSPMH) establish targets for its metrics to improve its evaluation of the effectiveness of its suicide prevention media outreach campaign. Further, the Committee directs that OSPMH provide the Committee with an expenditure plan on how it intends to effectively use fiscal year 2020 suicide prevention outreach funds no later than 30 days after enactment of this Act.