House Bill Aims to Address Veteran Suicides at VA Facilities
This month, three veterans completed suicide at Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities over the course of five days, bringing an alarming trend into the national consciousness. The rising rate of suicides and suicide attempts at VA facilities has prompted new legislation to be introduced in Congress. H.R. 2340, proposed by Army combat veteran Representative Max Rose (D-NY), would require the VA to track deaths and suicide attempts on VA property and provide that information to Congress, along with medical, financial and housing information for any individuals who die by suicide at the VA.
VETERAN SUICIDE AS A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS
According to the VA, roughly 20 veterans across the U.S. die by suicide every day and 6 of those 20 have recently used Veterans Health Administration (VHA) services. In 2014, a scandal broke when it was discovered that a VA facility in Arizona had a months-long waitlist, bringing to light service access issues across the country and prompting bipartisan legislation meant to address the problem. The VA currently highlights suicide prevention as its top clinical priority and has implemented new programs and strategies to address the crisis. However, over the last 18 months, 23 or more veterans have died by suicide at VA medical centers, including facility parking lots. While the VA is responsible for yearly suicide and suicide attempt reporting, they are not currently required to report on attempts or deaths that occur on their properties.
WHAT WOULD H.R. 2340 DO?
The new bill would require the VA to report suicides or suicide attempts on VA property within 7 days to Congress. Additionally, within 60 days following an incident, the VA would need to provide detailed information about the individual who had either attempted or died by suicide. The data would include their recent encounters at the VHA and employees they interacted with, demographic details including housing and marital status, information about their service within the military, and whether the veteran had private insurance. “Getting this data more quickly and thoroughly would guide Congress’ efforts in understanding this crisis, and preventing these tragedies,” said Rep. Rose upon introduction of the bill. “We must ensure all veterans have the services they need when they need them, plain and simple.”
The legislation was referred to the House Veterans’ Affairs committee. To follow the bill’s progress, click here.