Major step forward in addressing military suicide epidemic hangs in the balance as House leaders decide whether to include in final bill
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, an amendment sponsored by U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, that would require the Pentagon to implement a standardized and comprehensive suicide prevention program passed the Senate as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (S.3254). Murray crafted the amendment after a major study by the RAND Corporation showed that there are serious gaps and a lack of consistency in military services’ suicide prevention programs. The amendment’s passage comes as the number of active duty suicides rose to 166 for 2012, already more than the total number for 2011.
“Our servicemembers and veterans have faced unprecedented challenges: multiple deployments; difficulty finding a job here at home; and isolation in their communities,” said Senator Murray. “Some have faced tough times reintegrating into family life, with loved ones trying to relate but not knowing how. These are the challenges our servicemembers and veterans know all too well. But even as they turn to us for help, we have been losing the battle. Time and time again, we’ve lost servicemembers and veterans to suicide. Thankfully, this amendment seeks to reduce wait times and improve access to mental health care; ensure proper diagnosis; and achieve true coordination of care and information between the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. With these effective suicide prevention programs in place, no longer will our nation’s heroes be told ‘sorry, we are too busy to help you.’ I am proud this amendment will give our servicemembers and veterans a medical evaluation system that treats them fairly, gives them the proper diagnosis, and provides access to the mental health care they have earned and deserve.”