Ted Budd: More needed to stop veteran suicides

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 11, 2019

By Rep. Ted Budd

I recently came across a report from the Department of Veterans Affairs on national suicide trends. The numbers were very alarming.

It stated, “from CY 2013 to 2018, the suicide rate for the Active Component increased from 18.5 to 24.8 suicides per 100,000 service members.”

This number is too high and we must act to address it.

While Congress has passed many pro-veteran reforms under President Donald Trump, we must continue to find bipartisan solutions to tackle the most pressing issues that our veterans face.

There are proactive solutions that can be implemented to enable veterans to seek the services and care they need in a timely manner. One bill that could help is H.R. 3495, the Improve Well-Being for Veterans Act. I recently cosponsored this legislation, which would enhance coordination and planning of veteran mental health and suicide prevention services in order to lower veteran suicide rates.

Over the past year, we’ve heard witness testimony from the House Veterans Affairs Committee highlighting how veterans struggle to connect or even find local nonprofit and community organizations to address their needs. That’s where this legislation comes into play. It would increase coordination among currently disparate community resources that serve a wide variety of veteran needs.

I believe this approach would be highly effective given the fact that a similar approach has been used to reduce veteran homelessness.

Congress has already passed legislation to encourage state and local partnerships to work with VA clinics across the country to connect veterans with resources like housing and job training. As a result, we have seen a rapid decline in veteran homelessness across the country over the past few years.

This model can and should be replicated to address veteran suicides.

I think we can all agree that one suicide is too many, especially if that individual has served our country in uniform.

That’s why I am fully committed to looking for innovative ways to improve and encourage strong relationships between the VA, community partners, and local governments.

As our veterans face these issues, I think passing this bill would provide a lifeline to veterans everywhere dealing with mental health issues. In the coming months, I plan to continue to fight for this legislation so that it can be signed into law by President Trump.

Rep. Ted Budd represents the 13th Congressional District, which includes Rowan County.