House Unanimously Approves Vets’ Suicide Prevention Bill
The House on Tuesday voted 417-0 to approve a veterans' suicide prevention bill (HR 327) after lawmakers removed a provision that would have tracked veterans who received treatment for mental illnesses, the AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
The legislation, which moves to President Bush for consideration, would require staff at the Department of Veterans Affairs to receive mental health training, screen all veterans who receive treatment for suicide risk, and refer veterans at risk for suicide to counseling and treatment. In addition, the bill would designate a suicide counselor for each VA health care facility (Abrams, AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 10/23). The legislation also would provide funds for a 24-hour suicide hotline and suicide prevention research and would promote family outreach and peer counseling for veterans with mental illnesses (Norman, Des Moines Register, 10/24).
House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chair Bob Filner (D-Calif.) said, "Unfortunately, suicide prevention has become a major part of our responsibility to both active duty and to our veterans." According to Filner, as many Vietnam War veterans have committed suicide as soldiers who died during the war.
A report released last May by the VA Inspector General said that, according to the Veterans Health Administration, 1,000 veterans who receive treatment within the VA heath care system and as many as 5,000 other veterans commit suicide annually (AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 10/23).