Code Platoon is honored to work with the dedicated men and women of the military. We believe that the well-being of those who do and have served should take utmost priority and we are grateful to see clouds of change. In honor of our veterans in need and Mental Health Awareness Month, this post is dedicated to informing on that change which has been demanded by the people of our nation.
In the last 18 months, 24 tragic deaths at VA Medical Centers across the country have called attention the urgent need to strengthen support services available to veterans. While leaving an enduring mark, the growing outcry for help is sowing seeds for new policy, research and access to mental health programs to better ensure that no veteran is ever left behind.
Executive order signed to help end veteran suicide
The National Initiative to Empower Veterans and End Veteran Suicide was signed by the President in March to focus on improving the quality of life for American veterans, with a focus on suicide prevention.
Co-chaired by the Department of Veteran Affairs, the executive order mandates the development of the Veteran Wellness, Empowerment and Suicide Task Force. Within 365 days of the executive order the task force will need to develop a roadmap to lower the veteran suicide rate, present to Congress a program to offer grants to local communities to help deliver services to veterans and develop a strategy that can help gauge research in the area of veteran suicide prevention.
“As the largest integrated health care provider in the nation and a leader in developing innovative mental health and suicide prevention strategies, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is uniquely positioned to co-chair this effort with the White House,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Veterans suicide is a national public health issue that affects communities everywhere, and this executive order is a national call to action.”
New bill would force VA to report on campus suicides
Introduced by Rep. Max Rose, D-NY, an Army veteran, HR 2334 would require the VA to report on campus suicides and attempted suicides to Congress no later than seven days after the event.
Better known as the Fight Veteran Suicide bill, HR 2334 will require the reporting of additional veteran information to Congress. This information includes but is not limited to: the veteran’s status at the VA, the last encounter with the veteran’s current medical center, whether the veteran had private medical insurance, their age, housing and employment status. Rose believes by providing this additional information Congress will better understand veteran suicide and help provide a solution.
“It’s imperative that we receive not only basic information from the VA, but substantive data on this rising trend of veterans committing suicide at VA facilities,” said Rose, a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Getting this data more quickly and thoroughly would guide Congress’ efforts in understanding this crisis, and preventing these tragedies. We must ensure all veterans have the services they need when they need them, plain and simple.”
Congress has found that the VA is not always forthcoming with information regarding to the tragedies happening on VA Medical Center campuses. Rose and the House of Veteran Affairs Committee hope the mandated information will help Congress understand what is happening to veterans across the nation and create better suicide prevention.
Senate legislation to increase access to veteran mental health care
Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). S- 785 is an aggressive bill designed to give veterans access to the mental health care facilities and treatment they need. The bill hopes to increase the VA workforce, give veterans access to alternative solutions, and increase mental health care for rural/hard to reach veterans.
S-785 will improve VA outreach in five different ways.
- Aid the VA workforce and give direct hiring authority for mental health providers. It will also place a Suicide Prevention Coordinator at every VA Medical Center.
- Improve access to mental health care for veterans living in rural areas. Create more telehealth sites for veterans to access and give grants to non-VA organizations that provide mental health services to veterans.
- Automatically enrolls transitioning military personnel into VA mental health care for one year after service.
- Study, invest and innovate in alternative treatments like support animals, outdoor events, yoga, acupuncture, and meditation; give greater access to these types of treatments to veterans.
- Hold the VA accountable for its suicide prevention efforts, management of Va resources and information sharing with veterans seeking mental health care with both the VA and outside providers.
The bill aims to improve accountability of the VA regarding veterans suicide and suicide prevention measures. According to a report by Stars and Stripes, The Government Accountability Office found that the VA was only spending 1 percent of their budget on suicide prevention in fiscal year 2018. By September, the last month of the fiscal year, the VA only spent $57,000 of its committed $6.2 million.
Bipartisan legislation helping end veteran suicide crisis
Across the country, approximately 22 veterans commit suicide each day. Inexplicably, it has taken a spike in recent adverse events to spur the country’s leadership. Veterans everywhere need the help and support of family, friends and community to get through these invisible wounds they carry around daily. Having new programs emerge because of these events provides hope for the plight of many veterans in our nation.
Veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a Veteran in crisis, can call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, send a text message to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.