In the News
February 9, 2016
By Joshua Stewart
A bill that helps service members get access to better physical and mental health care has cleared the House of Representatives. The measure, the Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act, was partially inspired by a Coronado soldier who killed himself in 2013.
The bill has two major provisions. First, it requires the secretary of Veterans Affairs to identify the most effective health care programs and suicide prevention programs for women veterans, and to determine what programs have the highest satisfaction rates amongst women veterans.
“We can and we must do more to address the epidemic of suicide among our women veterans,” said Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Thousand Oaks, the bill’s primary sponsor. “We know that suicide can be prevented, but we need to work harder to understand the root causes. This bill is an important step forward toward that goal.”
A study shows that women who were in the military commit suicide nearly six times as often as women who are civilians.
Additionally, it requires the VA secretary to establish standards and procedures to make sure that veterans who participated in classified work can get mental health care treatment without compromising the secretive nature of their past duties. This provision, which was inspired by the suicide of Army. Sgt. Daniel Somers, was sponsored by Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego.
Somers was attempting to get individual treatment for post-traumatic stress in order to discuss his experiences and classified work in uniform rather than in a more-public group therapy. Somers’ parents have pushed for changes that could help veterans like their son get appropriate care.
“These changes will make a real difference in the lives of veterans anguished by mental scars from their brave service,” Peters, one of 21 bipartisan co-sponsors, said in a statement.
The bill passed on a voice vote on Tuesday so there is no record on how each member voted. It now heads to the Senate.