A bipartisan group of 34 senators sent a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough calling on the department to hasten connecting struggling Afghanistan veterans to mental health services in the aftermath of the deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan and Kabul bombing, which killed 13 U.S. service members.
Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, led a bipartisan letter calling on the VA secretary to “quickly develop a comprehensive outreach plan” to help Afghanistan and Global War on Terror veterans receive their service benefits.
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In the letter reviewed by Fox News, the senators noted that the VA “recently sent out correspondence” to veterans containing digital resources “encouraging them to seek help if they are experiencing distress related to their service in Afghanistan or if they need any mental health services.”
“This is the first step, but the VA should go beyond this initial outreach,” the senators wrote. “As you know, veterans aged 18 to 34 have the highest suicide rate among former service members.”
Citing the VA’s National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, the senators pointed out that veterans don’t use the Veterans Health Administration’s anti-suicide programs and called on the department to come up with a plan to get struggling veterans the help they need.
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“This plan must proactively contact veterans in the coming months through means including, but not limited to: digital correspondence, social media, phone calls, and text messages,” they wrote, adding the VA’s outreach “should consist of detailed information on mental health services.”
“As a country, we must keep the physical and mental wellbeing of our veterans at the forefront of our minds and efforts,” the senators concluded the letter.
“Especially given the constant media coverage and disturbing images coming out of Afghanistan, we ask for your commitment to developing a comprehensive outreach plan for our Global War on Terrorism, and specifically our Afghanistan veterans.”
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The senators joining Hassan and Ernst on the letter include Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
The VA did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
Houston Keene is a reporter for Fox News Digital. You can find him on Twitter at @HoustonKeene.