WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) partnered with Congressman Andrew Garbarino (NY-02) to introduce H.R. 1132, the Veteran Suicide Prevention Act. Specifically, the bill directs the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA)to compile a publicly available review of suicides by veterans in the last five years. While suicide is a national concern, rates among veterans are on average 1.5 times higher than those who have not served in the military. In September 2019, the VA released an alarming report showing that at least 60,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017. According to the VA’s most recent annual report, nearly 18 veterans take their own life every day.
“Issues surrounding mental health are a complex and unfortunate challenge for so many of our nation’s heroes,” said Joyce. “My heart breaks trying to understand the pain and suffering that drives 18 veterans a day to suicide. We have the responsibility to reverse that terrible statistic and provide those who have served our country with the care and support they have earned. I’m proud to join Rep. Garbarino in introducing this important bill and know that it can help us better treat the invisible wounds of war and prevent veteran suicides.”
“There are over 838,000 veterans living in the Empire State who have put their lives on the line to protect the sanctity of our freedom, and every single one of them deserves the best mental health care available,” said Garbarino. “After surviving the horrors of war, we must continue to safeguard the physical and mental health of our nation’s heroes. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan effort with Congressman Joyce to combat the alarming uptick in veteran suicides.”
Specifically, the review will include, but will not be limited to:
- the total number of veterans who died by suicide during the five-year period;
- a summary that includes age, gender, and race;
- a list of the 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 which led to the prescribing of such medications;
- the number of instances in which the veteran was concurrently on multiple medications prescribed by VA physicians;
- the percentage of veterans who were not taking any medication prescribed by a VA physician;
- the 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.
You can read the bill text here. Additional original cosponsors of the legislation include Reps. Mark Amodei (NV-02), John Katko (NY-24), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Peter Welch (VT-At Large), Bobby Rush (IL-01), and Amata Radewagen (AS-At Large).
“If you are a veteran in crisis, or know someone who is, please know that free, confidential support is available every hour of every day,” said Joyce. “You can call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, send a text to 838255, or chat online at veteranscrisisline.net.”