The Veteran Suicide Prevention Act has been reintroduced in Congress for National Suicide Prevention Month.
U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, is leading an effort to help combat high rates of veteran suicide in Virginia and across the country, according to a release from the congresswoman’s office.
Suicide rates among veterans are approximately 1.5 times higher than those who have not served in the military.
According to a 2022 study from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, at least 65,000 veterans died by suicide between 2011 and 2020, but the numbers are likely higher than data being reported.
The Veteran Suicide Prevention Act, which Spanberger helped reintroduce recently, which would increase the available data on the root causes and risks factors for instances of veteran suicide. The bill directs the VA to compile a publicly available review of suicides by veterans in the last five years.
“Those who have borne the battle deserve our strongest possible support. Amid an ongoing epidemic of Veteran suicide — both in Virginia and across the country, we need to make sure that the VA has a full grasp of the problem at hand,” said Spanberger in a statement.
“By requiring the VA to review suicides by Veterans in the last five years, the bipartisan Veteran Suicide Prevention Act would give the American people more information about the mental health crisis facing America’s heroes.”
Per the measure, the VA review would include: summary of the total number of veterans who died by suicide by age, gender, and race; a list of medications prescribed to, and found in the systems of, such veterans at the time of their deaths, and a summary of medical diagnoses by VA physicians that led to the prescribing the meds; the number of instances in which the veteran was concurrently on multiple medications prescribed by VA physicians; percentage of veterans who were not taking any medication prescribed by a VA physician; percentage of veterans with combat experience or trauma; Veterans Health Administration facilities with markedly high prescription and patient suicide rates; a description of VA policies governing the prescribing of medications; and recommendations to improve the safety and well-being of veterans.
Co-sponsors are U.S. Rep. Andrew R. Garbarino (R-NY), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Jim Himes (D-CT), Mike Lawler (R-NY), Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY), and Joe Morelle (D-NY).