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Bill Covers Evaluation Of Veterans’ Suicides

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and U.S. Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) are introducing bipartisan legislation to require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to take a more comprehensive look at the factors that best prevent veteran suicide.

The Senators’ Not Just a Number Act would require VA to examine veterans’ benefits usage in their annual suicide prevention report, in order to evaluate the relationship between VA benefits and suicide outcomes. Their bill would also have VA analyze which VA benefits have the greatest impact on preventing suicide, and require the Department to issue recommendations for expansion of those benefits in their fight to combat veteran suicides.

“When it comes to preventing veteran suicide, we’ve got to be looking at all the data we have on hand to see what’s working and what’s not,” Tester said. “The fact is that one veteran lost to suicide is one too many, and our bipartisan Not Just A Number Act would provide a fuller picture of the complex factors contributing to veteran suicide — ultimately helping us make better-informed decisions on how we can save more lives.”

“Improving suicide prevention initiatives remains a priority for Congress,” said Boozman. “I’ve led a bipartisan push directing the VA to implement new strategies for outreach by coordinating with successful veteran-serving organizations. The Not Just A Number Act continues our commitment to modernize how we reach and serve veterans who struggle to get the mental health care and support they need. This legislation will help us make better data-driven policy decisions so we can save the lives of the men and women called to serve in uniform.”

Currently, VA only analyzes how many veterans who die by suicide had recent interactions with VA through medical or mental health appointments. Acknowledging suicide prevention goes beyond just mental health practices, the Not Just a Number Act would have VA also look at veterans’ use of disability compensation, education and employment benefits, home loans and foreclosure assistance, and housing assistance programs.

The senators’ efforts to require a more comprehensive look at factors contributing to veteran suicide received strong backing from Veterans Service Organizations and stakeholders nationwide.

“The VFW strongly supports the Not Just a Number Act which would require VA to identify all of the factors included in veteran suicide including economic benefits,” said the Veterans of Foreign Wars legislative director Pat Murray. “For far too long VA has looked at veteran suicide as simply a clinical problem, but we know the issue is much more complex than that. This bill would examine veteran suicide by looking at socioeconomic AND mental health factors in order to provide a better roadmap to combat this problem. We thank Sens. Tester and Boozman for their bipartisan support for this issue and we look forward to getting this bill passed into law.”

“As DAV and our million- plus members continue our work to combat suicide among veterans, it remains imperative that our nation is armed with data that provides a holistic view of what works best in our fight to prevent these tragic outcomes,” said Disabled American Veterans National Commander Joe Parsetich. “This bill would help the VA and other federal, state, and local government agencies better understand the role education, job training, and housing programs play in the veteran suicide epidemic. DAV is proud to support the Not Just a Number Act, and we applaud Sens. Tester and Boozman for their bipartisan leadership in introducing this important legislation.”

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