We know when children go missing, thanks to AMBER Alerts sent to our phones. We know when senior citizens disappear because Silver Alerts are broadcasted on local television.
But we don’t have a system in place to figure out when veterans — a notoriously overlooked and vulnerable population — are nowhere to be found.
Right now, there is no alert system to find help at-risk veterans who have gone missing. I think that’s wrong. The men and women who served the U.S. often endure lifelong emotional trauma, leaving them at a heightened risk of suicidal and risky behavior. An average of 20 veterans commit suicide every day – and if you ask me, one is too many.
The lack of alert system for veterans has tangible consequences. I’ve toured New Hampshire speaking to countless veterans who have lost their friends to suicide, and they say an alert system could have intervened before it was too late.
Last year in Wisconsin, the parents of combat veteran Corey Adams realized that their son had gone missing. When they went to file a missing persons report at their local police station, they were told that their son did not meet the standards for a “critically missing” person. For that reason, the police declined to send out an alert about Corey.
He was found dead 18 days later.
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Later, Donald Bolduc, a brigadier general in the U.S. Army, told me that three of the service members he lost under his command died by suicide. He said an alert system could “destigmatize” military mental health and “get our veterans comfortable with coming forward and getting the care that they need.”
That’s why I partnered with Sen. Joni Ernst, a combat veteran and Republican senator from Iowa, to establish the country’s first missing veterans alert system. Senator Ernst and I introduced the bipartisan “Green Alert Act of 2019” to ensure that the families of suffering veterans get the help they need and deserve when their loved ones go missing.
The “Green Alert Act” would create a federal commission to develop best practices and provide technical assistance to states to implement Green Alert systems, which would alert law enforcement and the public in the event of a veteran’s disappearance.
Other states, including Wisconsin, have established their own “green alert” systems since, and have seen great success in suicide prevention. Now it’s time for Congress to take federal action in all 50 states. Our veterans fought for us, it’s time for us to fight for them.
Click here to learn more about the Green Alert Act.