July 31, 2020

Chairman Takano Supports New Bipartisan Veteran Suicide Prevention Legislation

New Bills from Reps. Lee & Torres Small will Expand Telehealth Care, Examine Effectiveness of VA’s REACH VET Program

Press Contact

Jenni Geurink (202-819-4684)

Miguel R. Salazar

WASHINGTON, D.C. — 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 by increasing access to healthcare and identifying and supporting at-risk veterans. The VA Telehealth Expansion Actintroduced by Subcommittee on Technology Modernization Chair Susie Lee (D-Nev.) and Ranking Member Jim Banks (R-Ind.) will close gaps that prevent veterans from accessing key telehealth care by allowing VA to work with outside partners that create and upgrade access to key technology for veterans. Additionally, the REACH VET Reporting Act introduced by Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) and Rep. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-A.S.) will evaluate the effectiveness of VA’s REACH VET program that uses predictive analytics to identify veterans before they are in crisis and lessen the risk of self-harm through enhanced outreach and clinical care. 


“It’s clear that we need to do more to reduce veteran suicide, especially as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic increases stressors and shifts care virtually—that’s why I’m proud to offer my support for two more critical, bipartisan veteran suicide prevention bills,” said Chairman Mark Takano. “By expanding access to innovative telehealth care and examining VA’s efforts to reach veterans before they are in crisis, these new bills from Rep. Lee and Rep. Torres Small will continue the Committee’s work to address every angle, factor, and intersection that may lead to veteran suicide.”


“We cannot let this pandemic compromise health care services for our veterans and servicemembers,” said Rep. Lee. “Because of COVID-19, telehealth video visits at VA have increased by over 1,000 percent between March and June of this year. Even though VA has expanded their telehealth capacity, many veterans still have limited access to telehealth services. There’s clearly no time for excuses. It’s our responsibility to adapt to the changes thrown our way. Our bipartisan bill will make sure that local VA facilities have the capacity and the technology to provide telehealth services, and that veterans in all communities have access to the quality health services they’ve earned.”


“New Mexico has some of the highest suicide rates in the country, including the veterans who call our state home. Veterans have given a great debt to serve our nation, and it’s our job to serve them, providing the support they need before they reach a crisis point. The REACH VET program attempts to improve the VA’s current system to identify former service members who may be a risk to themselves, so they can be connected with the treatment they need to get healthy. I am proud to work on this effort to ensure that no veterans, no matter where he or she lives, is left behind,” said Rep. Torres Small. 


Background: Earlier this year, the Committee adopted a comprehensive 7 pillar framework 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. So far this month, new suicide prevention legislation has been introduced to examine VA’s Solid Start programreform VA Policeimplement the Zero Suicide Initiative, and mandate suicide prevention training for community health providers


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.