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Bipartisan bill looks to learn more about VA benefits that may help prevent suicide

Crystal Graham
veteran depression
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Efforts are under way to pass legislation that would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to better track veterans who use its services and die by suicide.

The Not Just a Number Act may help the VA better prevent veteran suicide.

Specifically, the legislation would require the VA to evaluate the relationship between VA benefits and suicide outcomes in their annual suicide prevention report.

“The immense sacrifices our veterans make for us can take a toll on their mental health, and we owe it to them to ensure they have access to the most supportive and effective VA benefits available,” said U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). “The Not Just a Number Act would help us better understand which benefits those are, expand access to them and get veterans the help they need.”

Currently, the VA uses medical and mental health appointments to identify the number of veterans who died by suicide and had recent interactions with VA.

The Not Just a Number Act recognizes that suicide prevention goes beyond mental health care by requiring the VA to take a more comprehensive look at how veterans who died by suicide used other VA benefits, including disability compensation, education and employment benefits, home loans and foreclosure assistance, and housing assistance programs.

The bill would help identify the benefits that are most effective in preventing suicide and require the VA to expand access to them.

If you or someone you know needs support now, call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org. For a list of local resources, visit our Project Mental Health page.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.