The Trump administration said preventing suicide was its top clinical priority for veterans. We now know that was a lie. Trump’s Department of Veterans Affairs set aside $6.2 million this year alone to advertise its crisis hotline to reach vulnerable veterans, but it only spent less than 1 percent of that budget.
Washington Post: Trump’s VA vowed to stop veteran suicide. Its leaders failed to spend millions set aside to reach those at risk.
By Lisa Rein
The Trump administration said from its first days that preventing suicide was its top clinical priority for veterans.
The performance of its national outreach campaign shows otherwise, though, because of a leadership vacuum at the Department of Veterans Affairs and nonexistent means to measure effectiveness, a new report by the Government Accountability Office found.
As the number of veterans taking their own lives climbed, VA’s media outreach plunged in fiscal years 2017 and 2018 — with fewer social media posts, public service announcements and paid advertisements compared with the agency’s efforts during the Obama administration, auditors said.
About 20 veterans die by suicide every day, VA data shows. That’s nearly twice the suicide rate among Americans who did not serve in the military.
VA set aside $6.2 million this year alone to advertise its crisis hotline — the centerpiece of its suicide-prevention efforts — online, on billboards, buses and trains, and via local and national radio commercials. But as of September, the agency had spent $57,000 — less than 1 percent of that budget, auditors wrote.
By not reaching as many vulnerable veterans as it could have, the Veterans Health Administration, the agency’s health-care arm, “may not have exposed as many people in the community, such as veterans at risk for suicide, or their families and friends, to its suicide prevention outreach content,” the report concluded.