Suicides are all-too-common in our nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they [were] the 10th leading cause of death in the United States in 2015. According to data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs suicides are more common among veterans than in our nation’s adult population as a whole. In 2015, approximately 20 veterans committed suicide each day.

Military service could be a contributory factor in these deaths. That’s why Congress has charged the VA with undertaking outreach efforts to help troubled veterans so as many of these tragedies as possible can be prevented.

Sadly, however, the VA is failing to fulfill this mission.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report released in November documented that the VA’s outreach to veterans who might be experiencing the types of problems that could lead to suicide is not effective. Despite having been provided $1.7 million for these efforts in the period studied only 8 percent of the funds had been spent and very few veterans were assisted.

Appalled by this finding, U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, sent a letter on Dec. 19 to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie demanding an explanation of the abysmal performance the GAO has documented. She is acutely aware that a failure to discharge this mission appropriately may mean that many opportunities to prevent suicides are being missed.

“Congress has provided appropriation to the VA in order to target these taxpayer dollars to help veterans in crisis,” Ernst wrote. “We fully expect that these dollars be used in the most efficient and effective way possible. … With approximately 20 veteran suicides every day in the United States, this lack of outreach is simply unacceptable. … I am profoundly disappointed to learn that the VA has fallen short in fulfilling this responsibility. We can and must do better for our veterans.”

The Messenger strongly agrees with the senator.

To read the full editorial, click here.