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Spanberger Joins Bipartisan Fight to Prevent Veteran Suicide, Cosponsors Bill to Improve Mental Health Resources for Veterans

The Bipartisan Bill Would Improve Coordination of Suicide Prevention Programs Between the VA, State Governments, VSO, & Local Organizations

Washington, September 30, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger cosponsored a bipartisan bill to improve mental health services at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and address the ongoing suicide crisis among American veterans.

According to the VA’s 2019 National Suicide Prevention Annual Report, the rate of veteran suicide continues to rise—even as VA suicide prevention resources have increased by more than $100 million over the past decade. In 2017, an average of 16.8 veterans per day lost their lives due to suicide.

The Spanberger-supported Incorporating Measurements and Providing Resources for Outreach to Veterans Everywhere (IMPROVE) Well-Being for Veterans Act would give the VA expanded resources to reach additional veterans grappling with mental health issues. The legislation would enhance coordination and planning of veteran mental health services between the VA and the more than 50,000 organizations providing suicide prevention services for veterans—and the bill would develop measurement tools to track the effectiveness of these programs.

“Those who put on the uniform in the service of their country deserve to know that we have their backs in the fight against suicide. For many years, the VA has worked to combat veteran suicide through outreach, screenings, peer support, and additional services. But these federal efforts need to operate in tandem with the incredible, life-saving work of local organizations in communities across Central Virginia and throughout the country,” said Spanberger. “That’s why I’m proud to cosponsor this bill alongside many of my Republican and Democratic colleagues in the House. This bill would provide strong support for community programs that can reduce the risk of suicide, curb substance abuse, and help veterans and their families transition back into civilian life. Additionally, this legislation would give the VA the tools it needs to build a comprehensive strategy to better coordinate efforts across a wide range of local mental health organizations. As we continue to face staggering and unacceptable rates of veteran suicide, this bill would redouble our efforts to reduce the number of tragedies among those who have selflessly served.”

The bipartisan IMPROVE Act would increase coordination among community-level, veteran-focused mental health resources and would encourage the adoption of measurement tools to gauge the effectiveness of local suicide prevention programs and initiatives. By authorizing a 3-year grant program to provide funding to a wide range of non-profits, state organizations, and community programs, the bill would give these organizations greater capacity to raise awareness about services available to veterans and coordinate their delivery to veterans at risk of suicide.

The IMPROVE Act also requires the VA to coordinate mental health grant implementation with Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs). Among VSOs, the legislation is endorsed by the VFW, AMVETS, the Wounded Warrior Project, the Fleet Reserve Association, the Enlisted Association of the National Guard, and the Blinded Veterans of America.

The bipartisan bill is led by U.S. Representatives Jack Bergman (R-MI-01) and Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA-06).

BACKGROUND

Since arriving in the U.S. House, Spanberger has worked to enhance healthcare services offered to U.S. veterans and their families. In June, she helped introduce a bipartisan bill to help Central Virginia veterans afford the emergency transportation they need to receive high-quality medical treatment. And earlier this year, Spanberger joined Republicans and Democrats in calling on the VA to better address the unique needs of women veterans, especially as the women veteran population grows.

Additionally, Spanberger helped pass the bipartisan Veterans Access to Child Care Act, which would expand affordable access to childcare for veterans and their families.

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