***VIDEO FILE INCLUDED*** Rep. Susie Lee Examines Comprehensive Approach to Veteran Suicide Prevention
Washington, D.C. – Member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, U.S. Rep. Susie Lee (Nev.-03) participated in a full committee hearing to examine the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) efforts in adopting a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention in America’s veteran population.
Rep. Lee touched on VHA’s proposed concept of “perfect care,” which is their ultimate goal to reduce veteran death by suicide to zero. She echoed the importance of creating a comprehensive approach and culture at VHA to get as close to that goal as possible:
Rep. Lee: “I certainly love the radical idea of perfect care. I think that’s certainly a goal we should have when we’re talking about men and women who have served this country to make sure we’re getting to a point of zero suicides per day. I certainly think that should be the goal.
“If we are in fact going to adopt a ‘perfect care’ policy, I would like to see us look at how we are putting that roadmap into place. What steps do we need to take to get to where we need to be going?”
Rep. Lee asked the committee witnesses, Ms. Renee Oshinski, VHA Deputy Under Secretary, and Dr. Edward Coffey, Professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, what Congress needs to do to achieve that goal:
Rep. Lee: “What can this body do to help promote the type of culture that would be needed to implement this type of ‘perfect care’ scenario?”
Ms. Oshinski: “This is not about an individual failure. This is about how we need to change and work in the system. Helping to spread the word that we need a just culture. Individuals are not the issue. The issue is: how do we make the system work for the betterment of the most veterans that we can?”
Dr. Coffey: “What I tell my team is: there are 1,000 things we could do this year. There are 100 things we need to do this year. And there are three things we’ll be able to do this year. Our job as leaders is to make sure we have identified the correct three things.”
BACKGROUND: In August 2019, Rep. Lee and Republican Rep. Steve Watkins (Kan.-02) introduced the bipartisan Leave No Veteran Behind Act, which would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to reach out to veterans that they have not had contact with in two or more years, to ensure that every veteran is aware and has access to the comprehensive medical services provided by the VA.
- Nevada ranks 4th in the nation in overall suicide rate, and 6th in the nation for veteran suicide rate.
- In 2016, the suicide rate was 1.5 times greater for veterans than for non-veteran adults.