Congress Needs To Act on Veterans Mental Health Access Bill

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VeteransCrisisLineLogoThroughout 2012 we have followed and blogged about the shocking increase in the number of US troops who have died by suicide. The unsettling reports continued through October, with the US Army reporting 33 potential suicides. It is now almost guaranteed that the number of service men and women lost to suicide in 2012 will surpass the 2011 numbers.

Huffington Post author, Tom Tarantino, puts the newly released figures in perspective;

“About 3,100 service members have lost their lives to IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan…. shockingly, in the years since 9/11, about 3,000 military members have lost their lives to suicide…. Almost as many military members have taken their life as have lost theirs to IEDs.”

In the last few years there has been significantly more attention given to the mental health challenges our military faces. But attention has not yet lead to solutions. Senator Patty Murray’s Mental Health ACCESS Act of 2012, which was introduced to senators on June 27th, still has not been voted on.

The bill calls for:

  • Improving access to support services and care for service members, veterans, and their families.
  • Requiring the Department of Defense (D0D) to create a standardized suicide prevention program and
  • Requiring the DoD to oversee mental health care.
  • Expanding eligibility for VA mental health services to family members.
  • Requiring the VA to establish reliable measures for mental health and adopt an effective staffing plan in order to best serve veterans.

There are only approximately 15 working days left for members of the 112th Congress to act, and they’ve already got a full agenda. The “fiscal cliff” negotiations are expected to dominate the majority of the last few weeks of 2012. It is our hope that the military mental health crisis will not continue to be ignored by Congress, and that legislation can be passed to ensure the men and women who serve this country, and their families, are able to access the mental health resources they need. 

Veterans and their family members who may be struggling with mental health concerns are encouraged to call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 for veterans.

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