WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) applauded an Executive Order signed by President Trump today directing the U.S. Departments of Defense (DoD), Veterans Affairs (VA), and Homeland Security (DHS) to develop a plan to improve mental health and suicide prevention resources available to servicemembers as they transition to civilian life. In 2014, 244 Ohio veterans took their own lives.
“Even one veteran losing his or her life to suicide is too many,” said Brown. “Today’s Executive Order is an important step toward better supporting our servicemembers and veterans. But it can’t be just another plan sitting on a shelf, so I want to work with the Administration to make sure we take meaningful action.”
The Executive Order signed by the President requires DoD, DHS, and VA to develop and submit a plan within 60 days to improve mental health treatment resources available to servicemembers transitioning from military to civilian life. The respective agencies must update the President on progress within 180 days and offer any further reforms to help prevent veteran suicide.
In 2017, Brown’s bill, the Veteran Partners’ Effort to Enhance Reintegration Act (Veteran PEER Act), was included in the Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee’s Caring for Our Veterans Act. The Veteran PEER Act would require VA to establish peer specialist in patient aligned care teams to promote mental health, substance use disorders, and behavioral health in a primary care setting.
In 2015, Brown’s Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (Clay Hunt SAV) Act, was signed into law. The Clay Hunt SAV Act requires an independent system-wide assessment of existing VA mental health programs to better determine areas for improvement and consolidation. The legislation created a pilot loan repayment program to help recruit additional VA psychiatrists while strengthening relationships between the VA and non-profit mental health organizations as a way to better serve veterans.
Brown’s bipartisan Female Veterans Suicide Prevention Act was also signed into law last year. The legislation expands the VA’s yearly evaluation of mental health and suicide prevention programs to include metrics specific to female veterans. It also requires the VA to measure which programs are most effective for female veterans.
Brown encourages any veterans, servicemembers, or their families who are in crisis to seek help and assistance by contacting the Veterans Crisis Line – a confidential resource that connects veterans, their family, or friends, with qualified VA responders – at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1.