July 09, 2020

Chairman Takano Announces Support for Two New Bipartisan Veteran Suicide Prevention Bills

New Legislation from Reps. Lee & Blunt Rochester will Implement Zero Suicide Programming & Improve Quality of Care for Veterans in Crisis

Press Contact

Jenni Geurink (202-819-4684)

Miguel R. Salazar

RIVERSIDE, CA — Today, House Committee of Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) announced his support for two new bipartisan bills that align with the Committee’s comprehensive seven pillar approach to prevent veteran suicide. The VA Zero Suicide Demonstration Project Act of 2020 from Subcommittee on Technology Modernization Chair Susie Lee (D-Nev.) and Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Mich.) and the VA Clinical Training in Evidence-based treatments And Military (TEAM) Culture Act from Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) and Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fl.) will both take real steps towards reducing veteran suicide by implementing programming based off the proven Zero Suicide Initiative and mandating training in evidence-based suicide prevention techniques and cultural competency for all community healthcare providers who encounter veterans.

“The public health crisis of veteran suicide did not stop when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived—and our work to address this crisis has not abated either,” said Chairman Takano. “With this new bipartisan legislation led by Rep. Lee and Rep. Blunt Rochester, we can build on effective, systems-focused programming from the Zero Suicide Initiative and prepare providers to care for veterans in crisis. We have more work to do, but through these bills we can continue the Committee’s work to examine every angle, intersection, and factor that may lead to suicide and ultimately, save veterans’ lives.” 

“One veteran death by suicide a day is too much,” said Rep. Lee. “Our goal must be to bring veteran deaths by suicide to zero. We know that of the 20 veteran deaths by suicide per day, on average, six occur with active VA patients. While much can be done to reach the 14 veterans who are not accessing VA resources, the Zero Suicide Initiative focuses on providing the culture and resources to eliminate deaths by suicide within the VA. If we can show that these Zero Suicide pilot programs are effective at reducing suicide within the VA system, then we can expand the program to reach every veteran in America. Our nation’s veterans deserve our full support, and this bill with support from both parties shows our veterans they’re not in this alone.” 

“Suicide amongst our veterans is and has been a public health crisis in this country. The suicide rate is unconscionably high, and we know that the only way to reduce it is by providing our veterans with the best mental health care possible. After serving our country bravely, the least we can do for these women and men is provide them with clinically effective mental health treatment that respects the military experience,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester. “The VA Clinical Training in Evidence-based treatments And Military (TEAM) Culture Act will require training to better allow private providers to understand veterans and their experiences. Providing quality health care to our veterans is upholding our end of the bargain, and the VA Clinical TEAM Culture Act will help us do just that.” 

Background: After 3 suicides on VA campuses in just 5 days last April, Chairman Takano made suicide prevention the Committee’s number one legislative priority. In August, after a damning VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) reportdetailing a veteran suicide within an inpatient unit of a VA hospital, Chairman Takano called for a VA-wide stand down to address this crisis and ensure all VA staff are fully trained; assess facility infrastructure; and identify gaps in policies, procedures and resources. Still, there is more work to be done--that’s why the Committee adopted a comprehensive 7 pillar framework this year to address every factor that leads to suicide itself. Building on this strategy, Chairman Takano introduced the Veterans ACCESS Act—meaningful legislation that would ensure all veterans-- regardless of discharge status or whether they receive care at VA hospitals -- have access to the emergent mental health care they need.

If you or a veteran you know are struggling, contact the Veteran Crisis Line 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 and select option 1, or text 838255. For more information about the Committee’s efforts to address the COVID-19 crisis and resources available for veterans, please visit: https://veterans.house.gov/covid-19.