WASHINGTON (April 22, 2008)—Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) today joined bipartisan groups of her colleagues led by Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) in co-sponsoring two bills to prevent suicide among our military service members and veterans - the Armed Forces Suicide Prevention Act of 2008 (S. 2585) and Veterans Suicide Study Act (S. 2899).
"If we really want to support our troops, we need more than yellow ribbons; we need action" --Sen. Mikulski"It seems our troops are at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then at war at home to get the health care they need and deserve. If we really want to support our troops, we need more than yellow ribbons; we need action," said Senator Mikulski.
Last week, the RAND Corporation released a comprehensive study of the mental health needs of returning service members. The report found that of the 1.64 million personnel deployed for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to date, approximately 300,000 have returned suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or major depression. Only 53 percent of returning troops who met these criteria, however, sought help from a provider for these conditions in the past year.
The Armed Forces Suicide Prevention Act of 2008 would require the Department of Defense to implement comprehensive suicide prevention programs within all branches of the military, including National Guard and the Reserves. It is based on a successful program implemented by the Air Force in the early 1990s that resulted in reducing suicides by a third by early 2002.
The Veterans Suicide Study Act would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to report to Congress within 180 days the number of veterans who have committed suicide since January 1, 1997. Having an accurate record of veteran suicides over time is the only way to assess what prevention efforts are and are not working, according to Mikulski.
S.B. 2585 is co-sponsored by a total of 13 senators including Democratic Presidential hopefuls Barack Obama (D-IL) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY); former Democratic Presidential hopefuls John Kerry (D-MA) and Chris Dodd (D-CT); and former U.S. Navy Secretary and veteran Jim Webb (D-VA).
2008 S.B. 2585, Armed Forces Suicide Prevention Act of 2008 (Introduced in Senate)
2008 S.B. 2899, Veterans Suicide Study Act