Improving Mental Health Care for Veterans

Case Study - Findings Analysis and Insights - Policy Analysis, Implementation and Compliance - Program Evaluation and Measurement - Research and Evaluation - Research Design and Execution - Veteran Health

Improving Mental Health Care for Veterans

Posted on 03.22.24

Conducting and completing a comprehensive study and congressional report

The Hannon Act gave VA no later than one year after the date of the law’s enactment to begin the feasibility and advisability study and 90 days after the study was completed to submit a report to the Senate and House Committees on Veterans’ Affairs that included:

  • An assessment of whether it is feasible and advisable to create a suicide prevention coordinator program office to oversee and monitor suicide prevention coordinators and case managers across all VAMCs

  • A review of current staffing ratios for suicide prevention coordinators and case managers compared with current staffing ratios for mental health providers within each VAMC

  • A description of the duties and responsibilities for suicide prevention coordinators across VA to better define, delineate and standardize qualifications, performance goals, duties and outcomes for suicide prevention coordinators and case managers

At a minimum, the study had to include an assessment of the implications for legal/regulatory authority; the current state of the suicide prevention and suicide prevention case manager roles; the operational impact on various community and department functions; and the projected impact of suicide prevention services on Quadruple Aim outcomes (enhancing patient experience, improving population health, reducing costs and improving the work life of health care providers).

VA needed a trusted partner with experience evaluating mental health programs and services to assist with the study and report.


VA partnered with Aptive HTG to conduct the feasibility study and create the report for Congress. Aptive HTG has a team of experienced evaluation and performance improvement experts who use a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods to help government agencies and other organizations measure performance to optimize their value to patients and other stakeholders. The team, which has extensive mental health subject matter expertise and knowledge of VA, also uses:

  • Best practices in implementation science, research and evaluation methodology
  • Advanced statistical techniques to analyze data from a variety of sources including surveys, administrative data and other publicly available data
  • Resources to identify relevant information on program implementation, effectiveness and impact

Conducted a Rigorous Research and Policy Analysis

The Aptive team conducted a literature review to examine relevant laws, policy documents, federal reports and thought leadership articles. We also coordinated and completed 163 interviews with key staff across 21 VA service sites to capture data from all staff levels and fields in the suicide prevention program. Staff represented VAMC mental health leadership, the VA Central Office, Veterans Integrated Services Network (VISN) directors and chief mental health officers, VISN and Facility Suicide Prevention Team members, patient safety and Vet Center representatives, Department of Defense suicide prevention leadership, Veteran stakeholders and community partners.

Analyzed Findings

We compiled and analyzed findings from the interviews and literature review and conducted a cost/benefit analysis for local and national control scenarios. We also performed a qualitative content data analysis to analyze research data and produce findings and recommendations.

Applied Program and Project Management Best Practices

The Aptive team met frequently with the VA team throughout each week to report on all aspects of the project and identify next steps. We also implemented a risk assessment methodology to keep project deliverables on schedule because shifting priorities forced the project to adopt a condensed time frame. The project also required Aptive to manage four subcontractor staff. The tools we used to organize all research and content allowed the entire team to collaborate efficiently.


Delivering a congressional report and communications strategy for sharing information about VA suicide prevention efforts

Our team produced a report of study findings that informed multiple briefings for congressional oversight for both the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs.

VA also asked Aptive to help develop a communications strategy as part of the Hannon Act’s requirements to inform Veterans and caregivers about suicide prevention services and community grants and ensure timely, accurate and targeted messaging to external and internal stakeholders. We developed a real-time dashboard and managed, tracked and monitored all communications products, which included fact sheets, posters and consumer resources. In addition, we:

  • Provided advisory support on legislative communications and outreach strategy
  • Developed communications artifacts to engage specific stakeholders in implementing the Hannon Act
  • Coordinated and consulted with multiple VA communications and related program offices for stakeholder engagement and one-voice products

Results at a Glance

  • Developed a real-time dashboard and managed, tracked and monitored all communications products
  • Provided advisory support on legislative communications and outreach strategy
  • Produced a congressional report that informed multiple briefings for the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs