Sen. Kelly and Rep. Gallego Urge VA Secretary To Address Phoenix VA Mental Health Care Deficiencies

Arizona Senator Mark Kelly and Representative Ruben Gallego (AZ-07) sent a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough urging him to adopt recommendations made in response to the VA Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) recent report that documented a case in which inadequate mental health treatment and administrative lapses potentially contributed to a veteran’s death by suicide in Phoenix in 2019.  

In its report, the OIG found that the Phoenix VA provided an insufficient mental health treatment and monitoring plan, a delayed staff response to a family member’s phone call, delayed community care consult management, and demonstrated deficient administrative procedures in relation to the veteran who had previously suffered three suicide attempts in 2018. Upon the return of the patient a few months later, social workers and staff did not complete adequate risk assessments based on newer family member reporting, and failed to conduct and schedule a consult and appointment just days before the patients eventual suicide. At the conclusion of its report, the VA OIG makes seven recommendations for policy changes to the Phoenix VA Facility Director to close the gaps in performance that contributed to this tragic outcome.  

Kelly and Gallego wrote:

“The Phoenix VA Health Care System is actively taking steps to prevent future errors of this magnitude, and we are committed to conducting oversight to ensure that work is completed. However, we would also like to take this opportunity to begin a dialogue with you to identify and address the potential for similar gaps in care to occur and possibly endanger veterans across the VA Health Care System. […]

“As you continue to care for veterans’ physical and mental health, we respectfully request you take proactive steps to prevent a situation like this from reoccurring in any VA facility. We hope this VA OIG report serves as a call to action for not only the Phoenix VA, but the Department as a whole.

“We must ensure that no veteran who reaches out for life-saving mental health assistance falls through the cracks. We look forward to working with you to ensure that the Department and local VHAs are well-prepared to provide our nation’s veterans with the mental health care they need.”

In their letter, the lawmakers also reiterated the importance of the report’s recommendations to address the administrative and health care shortfalls, as well as emphasized their commitment to conducting oversight to ensure that work is completed in a timely and transparent manner. They also requested Secretary McDonough to engage directly with their offices on how these recommendations will be carried out. 

Read the full letter from Kelly and Gallego HERE.