Legislator requests $50 million from Cares Act Committee to address veterans’ issues during pandemic


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Veterans’ suicide rates are increasing during the pandemic, and some people across the state are trying to find ways to combat that. One state legislator said the answer may come from Cares Act funding.

“Suicide rates and suicide attempts have went up, and other veterans’ issues are deeply affecting the people who served us overseas,” said State Sen. Trent Garner (R).

Garner wrote a letter to the Cares Act Steering Committee requesting $50 million to address issues affecting veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Aaron Carson is the Fayetteville VA’s Mental Health Chief, and he said there’s been a significant spike in crisis calls and veterans’ suicides.

“We’ve had around a 20-25% increase in crisis-line calls, so it’s significant,” Carson said.

Job loss, isolation and fear are all affecting veterans, Carson said.

“This can translate into an exacerbation of mental health issues, and we have seen an uptick in those,” Carson said.

Garner said the $50 million would come from unallocated funds that need to be spent before December.

“Most of it would go to the Dept. of Veteran affairs so they can give grants to nonprofits,” Garner said. “The other way it would do is allow local clinics to do more services. Next it would give money to the VSO—that’s the veterans service officers that every county in the state has.”

Garner said the Fayetteville VA and others would benefit.

“I would imagine every clinic like that would have some additional services,” Garner said.

Carson and the Fayetteville VA can’t comment on possible pending legislation, but he said people need to reach out to veterans during the pandemic.

“See how they’re doing, and if you have any suspicion or if they say they’re struggling, direct them to the VA,” Carson said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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