CONGRESSMAN JOE MORELLE INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO STRENGTHEN RESOURCES FOR VETERANS IN CRISIS
(Rochester, NY) – Today, Congressman Joe Morelle announced the introduction of legislation to strengthen resources for servicemembers and help prevent veteran suicide. The Reach Every Veteran in Crisis Act requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to improve the operation, oversight, and evaluation of its suicide prevention media outreach campaigns.
“Each day, 20 veterans take their own life – that’s over 7,000 veterans a year, more than the number of U.S. soldiers we lost in the entire Iraq war,” said Rep. Morelle. “This is a crisis that is devastating too many families across our nation. We have a moral responsibility to do more to protect those who have so courageously defended our country, and it is my hope that this legislation will help our veterans during their time of need.”
“At Veterans Outreach Center, we see the debilitating effects of PTSD/TBI every day,” explained VOC Executive Director Laura Stradley. “We join Congressman Morelle in recognizing that Veteran Suicide prevention needs to be a national priority. We applaud this effort to reestablish a focused campaign on suicide prevention for the men and women who have served our country, and we look forward to working with our local VA medical center to respond to any veteran in need. No one who has served their county should feel alone and isolated. Veterans Outreach Center joins in the battle with our fellow veteran service providers, standing strong together to send a message to all Veterans that our community can offer the help they need and the support they deserve.”
Recently, it was revealed that the VA only spent $1.5 million of its $6.2 million outreach budget toward suicide prevention media outreach in Fiscal Year 2018. In its investigation, the Government Accountability Office (GOA) found that the VA never established targets to evaluate the efficacy of its suicide prevention campaign and that turnover in leadership came at the expense of media outreach efforts.
The Reach Every Veterans in Crisis Act, H.R. 2184, would ensure the resources already allocated by Congress are used effectively and efficiently to ensure veterans have access to the support and healthcare services they need. Specifically, this bill would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to:
- Establish targets—based on industry-standard metrics such as impressions and engagement rate—to evaluate the efficacy of its mental health and suicide prevention outreach campaigns
- Create a process to oversee VA’s suicide prevention media outreach campaigns.
- Submit a report on expenditures and obligations of funds of Veterans Health
Administration’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention to the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees and Appropriations Committees.
- Ensure all future contracts regarding mental health and suicide prevention outreach include a clause that the contractor must track metrics established by the Secretary and report these metrics to the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.
“Veterans suicide is not an anomaly, it is not a passing phase, it is not going away,” said Chuck Zeiner, Commander, Monroe County American Legion. “Suicide is a present and real issue, and we must continue to engage in a strong dialogue with our government, the Veterans Administration, our peers, and the veterans themselves. It is our hope that the measures started here today will have a positive impact towards the resolution of this devastating problem.”
This legislation is sponsored in the Senate by Rep. Richard Blumenthal (S.606).
If you are a veteran in crisis or have concerns about a loved one, please call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, text 838255, or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net.