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New Bill to Address Veteran Suicide Rates

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The Veteran Overmedication and Suicide Prevention Act was passed in early 2019 to prioritize gathering information in order to improve people’s understanding of veteran deaths by suicide. The act also calls for a determination on the impact of opioid prescription’s use and abuse on veteran suicide.

This bill was first proposed by the late Senator John McCain and was sponsored by Representative Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., in January of 2019. Under this new legislation, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will review the circumstances of any former servicemembers who committed suicide. This will require VA to work with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to compile relevant information over a five-year period.

According to VA, around 20 veterans die by suicide every day, many of whom were not actively receiving or eligible for care before their passing. VA also reports that veterans are 1.5 times more likely to take their own lives than civilians, and 20 percent are more likely to commit suicide with a gun than non-servicemembers.

The study which The Veterans Overmedication and Suicide Prevention Act requests would include a comprehensive list of medications prescribed to veterans as well as any legal or illegal substances they were taking. This would allow researchers to identify any substances which come with warnings of suicidal ideation that may have contributed to a former servicemember’s passing.

Additionally, researchers would compile a list of VA hospitals with high prescription and suicide rates and examine how staff members decide when to prescribe medications and how much. This Act will also call for an analysis of how the VA maintains appropriate staffing for veterans’ mental health needs, including providing trainings and their hiring practices for medical professionals.

This bill will push the VA to assess any correlations between opioid prescription use and veterans’ suicide rates. The high rate of former servicemember suicides should be prioritized by the United States Government as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs. If your loved one took their own life and you believe the VA could have done more to prevent their passing, you should speak to an experienced attorney who is familiar with veteran legal affairs. At VetLaw, our dedicated attorneys have assisted many former servicemembers with advocating for their legal rights, and we can help you fight for the compensation you may be entitled to.