August 31, 2021

Cortez Masto & Rosen Urge VA to Address Impact of Afghanistan Withdrawal on Veterans’ Mental Health

Washington, D.C. – Nevada’s U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) joined Senators Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), and a group of 30 colleagues calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to swiftly develop and conduct outreach to veterans of the Global War on Terrorism – especially those who served in Afghanistan – and connect them to available mental health resources. Their call for action comes as reports find calls to veterans’ suicide hotlines have increased since the fall of Kabul earlier this month.

In the letter, the Senators note veterans between the ages of 18 to 34 have the highest suicide rate among former service members and that many veterans do not use the Veterans Health Administration services, which provides many mental health resources geared at preventing suicide among service members.

“We write in light of the recent events in Afghanistan to encourage the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to quickly develop a comprehensive outreach plan to connect Afghanistan and Global War on Terrorism veterans to VA benefits and services,” wrote the Senators. “More than two million veterans served during the Global War on Terrorism, including more than 800,000 in Afghanistan, and these service members deserve and earned the support that they need. We appreciate the VA’s commitment to providing mental health services to all veterans and ask, in light of the current situation, that the Department accelerate its efforts to provide resources – to veterans of these recent conflicts.”

Senator Cortez Masto is a champion in the Senate advocating for our veterans, and has consistently prioritized the safety of Americans and U.S. allies as they evacuated out of Afghanistan. As part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2021, Senator Cortez Masto secured measures to improve mental health services for members of the National Guard and Reserves, support Navy members in getting the retirement benefits owed to them, and increase the transparency and efficiency of the Department of Defense’s TRICARE medical billing practices.

Senator Rosen has long worked to address veterans’ mental health challenges, including leading a bipartisan call to fund the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Veteran Affairs and Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, which provides support for veterans experiencing homelessness and mental or physical health problems. Senator Rosen also introduced the bipartisan VA Zero Suicide Demonstration Project Act last Congress, legislation  that would build upon the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) strong suicide prevention efforts by implementing a Zero Suicide Initiative pilot program at five VA medical centers across the nation, one of which must serve primarily veterans who live in rural and remote areas.

A full copy of the letter can be found HERE.