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Legislators want information from VA on root causes, risk factors of veteran suicides

Crystal Graham
veteran depression
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During National Suicide Prevention Month, a bipartisan group of legislators are working to get better data related to the root causes and risk factor for instances of veteran suicide.

Suicide rates among veterans are approximately 1.5 times higher than those who have not served in the military. According to a 2022 study from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, at least 65,000 veterans died by suicide between 2011 and 2020. However, the numbers are likely higher than the data being reported.

To help the VA better understand the scope of this crisis, the legislators reintroduced the bipartisan Veteran Suicide Prevention Act, which would increase the available data on the root causes and risks factors for instances of veteran suicide.

Specifically, the bill directs the VA to compile a publicly available review of suicides by veterans in the last five years.

U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger is leading the Veteran Suicide Prevention Act alongside U.S. Representatives Andrew R. Garbarino (R-NY-02), Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06), Jim Himes (D-CT-04), Mike Lawler (R-NY-17), Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY-04) and Joe Morelle (D-NY-25).

“Those who have borne the battle deserve our strongest possible support. Amid an ongoing epidemic of Veteran suicide — both in Virginia and across the country, we need to make sure that the VA has a full grasp of the problem at hand,” said Spanberger. “By requiring the VA to review suicides by veterans in the last five years, the bipartisan Veteran Suicide Prevention Act would give the American people more information about the mental health crisis facing America’s heroes.”

Under the Veteran Suicide Prevention Act, the VA review would include:

  • The total number of veterans who died by suicide during the five-year period;
  • A summary that includes age, gender, and race;
  • A list of the medications prescribed to, and found in the systems of, such veterans at the time of their deaths, and a summary of medical diagnoses by VA physicians that led to the prescribing of such medications;
  • The number of instances in which the veteran was concurrently on multiple medications prescribed by VA physicians;
  • The percentage of veterans who were not taking any medication prescribed by a VA physician;
  • The percentage of veterans with combat experience or trauma;
  • Veterans Health Administration facilities with markedly high prescription and patient suicide rates;
  • A description of VA policies governing the prescribing of medications; and
  • Recommendations to improve the safety and well-being of veterans.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, you can call or text 9-8-8 or chat online at 988lifeline.org. Veterans can reach the Veterans Crisis Line directly by dialing 9-8-8 and pressing “1.”

 

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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.