Reps. Lee, Bergman Introduce Bipartisan Bill to End Veteran Suicide
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Susie Lee (D-Nev.-03) and Jack Bergman (R-Mich.-01) introduced the bipartisan VA Zero Suicide Demonstration Project Act of 2020. This bill would launch the Zero Suicide Initiative Pilot Program at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The Zero Suicide Initiative, a concept and program founded by the Henry Ford Health Care System, is a program built on the belief that all suicides are preventable through proper care, patient safety, and systems-focused efforts. This legislation would build on the VA’s strong suicide prevention efforts by implementing more comprehensive, systems-focused Zero Suicide efforts in pilot programs at five VA medical centers across the country.
“One veteran death by suicide a day is too much,” said Rep. Lee. “Our goal must be to bring veteran deaths by suicide to zero. We know that of the 20 veteran deaths by suicide per day, on average, six occur with active VA patients. While much can be done to reach the 14 veterans who are not accessing VA resources, the Zero Suicide Initiative focuses on providing the culture and resources to eliminate deaths by suicide within the VA. If we can show that these Zero Suicide pilot programs are effective at reducing suicide within the VA system, then we can expand the program to reach every veteran in America. Our nation’s veterans deserve our full support, and this bill with support from both parties shows our veterans they’re not in this alone.”
“For over a decade, around 20 Veterans have taken their own lives each day,” said Rep. Bergman. “We cannot tolerate this lack of progress because we know that even one suicide is too many. The VA has recently made great strides in committing to Veteran Suicide efforts, including through the new President's Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide. Until we’ve fully addressed this crisis, however, we must innovate and explore all avenues—starting with what has demonstrated positive results. This new legislation will implement the ‘zero suicides’ method, changing the way VA approaches suicide risk.”
BACKGROUND: The following members of Congress have signed on as original cosponsors to this legislation: U.S. Reps. Gil Cisneros (Calif.-39), Mike Levin (Calif.-49), and Max Rose (N.Y.-11).
This legislation is a continuation of Rep. Lee’s efforts to end veteran suicide and improve veteran care overall. In August 2019, Rep. Lee introduced the bipartisan Leave No Veteran Behind Act with Republican Rep. Steve Watkins (Kan.-02), which would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to reach out to veterans with whom they have not had contact in two or more years, to ensure that every veteran is aware and has access to the comprehensive medical services provided by the VA.