Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), stating that “war is and always has been hell,” today introduced legislation aimed at reducing the rise in military suicides.
Speier stated, “War is and always has been hell—the fact that men and women take their own lives after they leave the battlefield in defense of our freedom is a sad reality. The suicide statistics are alarming—we need to act now to curtail further loss of lives. It is chilling that we are more likely to lose troops to suicide than combat. Speier noted that since the invasion of Afghanistan 761 personnel had been killed in combat in Afghanistan as of June, 2009 while there were 817 suicides in the military during that period.
Speier’s H.R. 26 directs the Secretary of Defense to set up a program where military personnel completing deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan would have a three-month confidential mental health and traumatic brain injury screening conducted by a licensed medical professional beginning 90 days after the date on which the member completes a deployment.
She added, “The policy of asking for help isn’t working. It’s critical that personnel in need be identified and treated in a timely manner. “
Background on Veterans Mental Health Screening and Assessment Act
Screenings shall be designed to provide the members of the Armed Forces with an objective mental health and traumatic brain injury standard to screen for suicide risk factors; to ease the members’ transitions by allowing them to be honest in their assessments; to battle the stigma of depression and mental health problems among service personnel and veterans and ultimately reduce the prevalence of suicide among veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
The Secretary of Defense may not prohibit a member of the Armed Forces from returning to the United States by reason of any result or determination made pursuant to a screening.
The Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall establish a joint protocol to share existing and future reports from confidential mental health screenings conducted under this section to help aid members of the Armed Forces in their transition from healthcare and treatment provided by the Department of Defense to health care and treatment provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Veterans Mental Health Screening and Assessment Act was introduced in the 111th Congress by Congressman Michael McMahon (NY-13).