Ahead of Veterans Day, Peters Announces Support for Bipartisan Bill to Prevent Military Suicide
Peters Cosponsored Legislation Ahead of Veterans Day to Streamline Suicide Prevention Efforts at the Department of Defense
WASHINGTON, DC – Ahead of Veterans Day later this week, U.S. Senator Gary Peters, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, today announced he cosponsored legislation to help prevent suicide among servicemembers. The bipartisan Save Our Servicemembers (S.O.S.) Act – which is in response to a report revealing a 15% increase in military suicides in 2020 from the previous year – directs the Department of Defense (DoD) to assess the effectiveness of its suicide prevention programs and improve data collection.
“The rise in suicide among our men and women in uniform is extremely disturbing. It is a tragic reminder that the invisible wounds of war can have devastating impacts on our servicemembers – and their families,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve. “This bipartisan bill takes critical steps towards preventing military suicides and better ensures that servicemembers can access the mental health care services they’ve earned.”
The S.O.S. Act directs the Pentagon to evaluate the effectiveness of their suicide prevention efforts and to improve its data collection, reduce bureaucratic duplication, and strengthen collaboration between its offices.
This past spring, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan watchdog agency, released the findings of a review of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) suicide prevention programs. The report identified three areas that DOD should address to improve suicide prevention efforts. The S.O.S. Act directs DOD to implement those GAO recommendations, which include:
- Assessing DOD’s individual non-clinical prevention efforts to determine their effectiveness.
- Improving DOD’s data collection by reducing duplication and developing consistent suicide-related definitions to be used department-wide. This is in response to concerns that inconsistent definitions could be impeding the ability to access and improve prevention programs.
- Strengthening collaboration between Pentagon offices, specifically between the Defense Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO) and the Psychological Health Center of Excellence on the production of the annual suicide reports, to minimize duplication of efforts.
The S.O.S. Act has the support of over 30 senators—Democrats and Republicans—and is supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion.
Senator Peters has long been an advocate in Congress for Michigan’s servicemembers and veterans. Last month, he led a bipartisan effort calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to develop and conduct more extensive outreach to veterans of the War on Terrorism to provide them with mental health resources. In January, Peters’ bipartisan bill to strengthen transparency and communication for veterans and caregivers participating in the VA’s caregiver program was enacted into law. Additionally, Peters’ bipartisan provision was signed into law to help veterans who may have erroneously given a less than honorable discharge from the military due to negative behavior resulting from mental traumas such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Also, Peters’ bipartisan legislation to expand apprenticeship opportunities for veterans and allow them to use their GI bill benefits toward securing a registered apprenticeship was signed into law last year. Furthermore, Peters fought for and helped secure in the national defense bill that was enacted in January a measure to expand the Department of Veterans Affairs list of medical conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure to include bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism.
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