Reps. Peters, Banks Introduce Bill to Establish Support Network to Support Servicemembers’ Mental Health
May 14, 2019
Today, Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52) and Rep. Jim Banks (IN-03) introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Daniel Somers Network of Support Act, which would create a network of support for servicemembers and their families. These networks are intended to improve servicemembers’ mental health by engaging directly with families on the challenges servicemembers experience, potentially preventing isolation and suicide.
The bill directs the Department of Defense to establish a Network of Support, a pilot program that will provide friends and family of servicemembers a better understanding of the rigors, challenges, and needs associated with military service. The American Red Cross would collect contact information from people servicemembers designate in their networks of support, and the Department of Defense would send updates to those networks.
This bill is named after Army Veteran Sergeant Daniel Somers, who died by suicide in 2013 after two tours in Iraq, suffering traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress. Sgt. Somers’ parents, Howard and Jean Somers live in Coronado and are Rep. Peters’ constituents. Since their son’s death, the Somers family have become powerful advocates for reforming access to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) services and improving servicemembers’ transition from the DoD to the VA.
“Servicemembers deserve our support at every stage of their service, and military families are their foundation during enlistments, deployment, reassignments and more. If family members and friends can learn more about the experiences and challenges of serving in the military and the tools available to them, they can better support their servicemember. My constituents, Howard and Jean Somers, have been tireless advocates for servicemembers and veterans. I’m proud to work with my friend, Senator Kyrsten Sinema to turn the Somers’ network of support idea into action, so fewer families have to endure a loss like theirs,” said Rep. Peters.
“Educating our troops’ family and friends about the military experience ensures our servicemembers and veterans don’t feel isolated. I will continue working to provide our servicemembers with every resource they need and the support they deserve,” said Senator Sinema.
“The suicide rate among our veteran community is heartbreaking, and we must do more to prevent such tragedies. I hope to honor the life of Daniel Somers by introducing this legislation and increasing mental health awareness among our nation’s heroes and those that love them. By connecting close family and friends of service members, we can better prevent suicide and get our veterans the help they need,” said Rep. Banks.
“Since Daniel’s death six years ago, we have been working closely with Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Rep. Scott Peters to decrease the number of military and veteran suicides as well as increase family and friends’ awareness of the military experience. We feel strongly that this bill accomplishes both of those goals, by allowing those closest to our servicemembers to empathize with our warriors, and to truly understand what it is like to serve,” said Howard and Jean Somers.
The legislation is also supported by Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Representative Susan Davis (CA-53). The members hope to include this legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act.