Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act (S. 2487) with overwhelming bipartisan support. The legislation would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to identify the most effective programs and approaches in reducing suicide rates among female veterans. House passage of the bill sends it directly to President Obama for signing.
Two weeks ago, the bill passed the Senate, with efforts led by U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
Congresswoman Brownley authored the Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act (H.R. 2915) after VA researchers found that suicides among women veterans increased by 40 percent from 2000 to 2010, and that women veterans were nearly six times as likely as non-veteran women to commit suicide. When looking at women between the ages of 18 to 29, many of whom served in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are 12 times more likely than their non-veteran counterparts to commit suicide. The findings were based on data analyzed from 23 states that tracked over 174,000 veteran and non-veterans suicides over a ten-year period.
“I’m so pleased this legislation is on its way to the President’s desk because it will save lives among our nation’s female veterans,” said Congresswoman Julia Brownley. “The Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act will lead to a better understanding of the factors that contribute to the alarmingly high suicide rates among women veterans so that we can design more effective suicide prevention programs.”
“The current rate of suicide among women veterans is heartbreaking and unacceptable,” Senator Boxer said. “I am proud that the House and Senate have come together to pass this bipartisan bill to help ensure that female veterans get the mental health care and the support they need at the VA.”
“Each day, we lose 22 veterans to suicide, and the suicide rate among our female veterans is higher than that of male veterans when compared to the general population,” said Senator Ernst. “One veteran’s life lost to suicide is too many, and we absolutely must do better for our veterans to ensure they have the quality and timely mental health care they need to transition back to civilian life. I am thankful to Representative Brownley for her work in the House, and encourage President Obama to quickly sign this important legislation into law.”
The VA is already required to conduct annual evaluations of its suicide prevention and mental health programs under the Clay Hunt SAV Act. The Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act will require the VA to produce separate data and statistics on female veterans. The information will then be used to identify mental health and suicide prevention programs that are the most effective, and most preferred, among women veterans.