Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Congresswoman Julia Brownley’s (CA-26) Female Veterans Suicide Prevention Act (H.R. 2915) with overwhelming bipartisan support.
H.R. 2915 would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to identify mental health and suicide prevention programs that are the most effective and result in the best outcomes among at-risk women veterans.
“We can and we must do more to address the epidemic of suicide among our women veterans,” said Rep. Brownley. “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.”
The suicide rate of women veterans is nearly six times higher than non-veteran women; and shockingly, for women ages 18-29, the risk of suicide is even higher at nearly 12 times the rate of non-veteran women.
The VA is currently required to conduct annual evaluations of its suicide prevention and mental health programs under the Clay Hunt SAV Act. However, the VA does not know how well these programs are working for female veterans. Brownley’s bill would direct the VA to study which programs work best for male and female veterans.
“Although women have been in combat situations for many decades, as the military opens its doors to women in any role, including combat units, we will see a rise in women returning with specific needs. For too long, a blind eye was turned to the concept of suicide due to military traumas, regardless of gender,” said Mary Bandini, Post Commander, VFW Post 10049. “As a combat veteran, that Congresswoman Brownley recognizes the problem, but moreover stands up to fight the inequality brings me great pride and hope.”
The Female Veterans Suicide Prevention Act (H.R. 2915) passed the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee with bipartisan support in September, and is supported by the American Legion, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Service Women’s Action Network, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Brownley introduced the legislation after the May 2015 release of a VA report analyzing data from 23 states and the Department’s Suicide Repository on more than 170,000 suicides over a 10-year period. The VA researchers found that suicides among women veterans increased by 40 percent from 2000 to 2010. In fact, women veterans are nearly six times as likely as non-veteran women to commit suicide.
Last week, companion legislation to H.R. 2915 was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Boxer (D-CA), Ernst (R-IA), Blumenthal (D-CT) and Brown (D-OH). Representative Brownley is the Leading Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health. Ensuring that America’s veterans receive the services and benefits that they have earned and deserve is her highest priority.