WASHINGTON – A bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and John Boozman (R-AR) to help address the alarming rate of veteran suicide is one step closer to becoming law. Today, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee included language from the Senators’ IMPROVE Well-Being for Veterans Act as a provision in a comprehensive bill that expands veterans’ access to mental health services. The legislation unanimously passed the committee and now awaits consideration by the full Senate.
“Our nation’s veterans have faithfully served our country, and they deserve to know that, as they face the invisible wounds of war, we will do everything we can to make sure they receive the help they need. Currently, we are facing an alarming rate of suicide deaths among our veteran population and we’ve got to make tackling this issue a priority. With today’s markup of our bill, we are one step closer to making sure veterans get the services and resources they need,” said Sen. Warner.
“This is a great step in the right direction to getting our veterans the resources, services and care they need. Coordinating and sharing information between the VA and veteran-serving organizations that have the common goal to save lives will have a positive impact,” said Sen. Boozman.
The IMPROVE Well-Being for Veterans Act creates a new grant program to enable the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct additional outreach through veteran-serving non-profits in addition to state and local organizations. Additionally, the bipartisan bill enhances coordination and planning of veteran mental health and suicide prevention services and would better measure the effectiveness of these programs in order to reduce the alarming number of veteran suicides.
The VA estimates that around 20 veterans die by suicide each day. That number has unfortunately remained roughly unchanged despite drastic increases in funding. Over the last ten years, Congress has more than tripled the VA’s funding for suicide prevention efforts to $222 million.
Only six of those 20 veterans were receiving healthcare services from the VA before their death. That’s why Sens. Warner and Boozman are empowering the VA to share information with veteran-serving non-profits and requiring it to develop a tool to monitor progress so that resources can be concentrated on successful programs.
The IMPROVE Well-Being for Veterans Act was introduced in June 2019. Days later, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie called the bill “key” to unlocking the veteran suicide crisis at a committee hearing.