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house Bill H.R. 2333

Should the GAO Study the Workload of Suicide Prevention Coordinators at the VA?

Argument in favor

Veteran suicide is a huge problem in the U.S., with nearly 20 veterans, active duty service members, and members of the reserves committing suicide every day. Studying the work of VA suicide prevention coordinators is an important step towards ensuring that these vital VA personnel have the support and resources they need to help prevent veteran suicides.

Frances's Opinion
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05/20/2019
VETERANS, SPECIALLY COMBAT VETS, COMMIT SUICIDE AT A MUCH HIGHER RATE THAN THE CIVILIAN POPULACE AND NEED ALL THE HELP WE CAN GIVE THEM!
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Argument opposed

Based on this bill’s committee report, it seems clear that the VA already knows how it could better support VA suicide prevention coordinators: it could simply hire more of them to distribute the workload among more staff. It’d be better to reallocate the $1 million that this bill would cost to hiring more VA suicide prevention personnel instead of producing a report that’ll only tell the VA what it already knows.

Mart's Opinion
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05/19/2019
State issues, not a national power under the Constitution
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate Passed on a voice vote
  • The house Passed on a voice vote
      house Committees
      Economic Opportunity
      Health
      Committee on Veterans' Affairs
    IntroducedApril 18th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 2333?

This bill — the Support for Suicide Prevention Coordinators Act — would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report on the responsibilities, workload, training, and vacancy rates of suicide prevention coordinators at the Department of Veterans Affairs. This report would include a determine of the extent to which the use and staffing of suicide prevention coordinators varies between VA facilities and the extent to which the VA Secretary provides oversight of suicide prevention coordinators. It would also identify where the gaps in care delivery are, particularly for clinicians, social workers, and suicide prevention coordinators working on the front lines of veteran suicide prevention.

The report would be due to the Veterans’ Affairs Committees in both the House and Senate no more than a year after this bill’s enactment.

Impact

Veterans; veteran suicides; veteran suicide prevention; VA; VA suicide prevention coordinators; and the GAO.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 2333

$1.00 Million
The CBO estimates that the report this bill requires would cost about $1 million over the 2020-2024 period.

More Information

In-DepthSponsoring Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY) introduced this bill to ensure that VA suicide prevention coordinators get the tools and resources they need to give veterans access to critical mental health resources to prevent veteran suicide. After this bill unanimously passed the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Rep. Brindisi said

“One veteran life lost to suicide is one too many. Our bill is an important step in ensuring the VA has the tools and resources it needs to provide veterans with life-saving mental health resources. I am thankful that the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee has made this a top priority, and I encourage House leadership to act quickly to bring our bill to the floor.”

After this bill passed the House by voice vote, Rep. Brindisi added

“It is critically important that we provide our Suicide Prevention Coordinators with the resources they need to successfully address veteran suicide, and this bill is a good step toward making sure that happens. I am honored this bill passed the House, and I’ll continue to fight for all of our veterans because they fought hard for us.”

Clear Path for Veterans supports this bill. Its Chief Strategic Officer, Earl N. Fontenot, says

“In the last decade a large number of bills and initiatives have come out of Washington D.C. aiming to combat Veteran suicide, while all great in concept, we have not seen a huge change in suicide rate. [This bill] is a great way to measure what is effective, what is not, and how the VA should pivot on what they are currently doing to better meet the mental health needs of the Veterans they serve. We commend Congressman Brindisi for the great work in championing this bill and all of the other initiatives he has quickly begun working on in the House Veteran Affairs committee.”

This legislation passed the House by voice vote with the support of 10 bipartisan House cosponsors, including six Republicans and four Democrats. Its Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), has nine bipartisan Senate cosponsors, including seven Democrats and two Republicans. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Clear Path for Veterans, and local veterans in Rep. Brindisi’s home district support this legislation.


Of NoteThe National Suicide Data Report for 2005-2016 reports that approximately 20 veterans, active duty servicemembers, and members of the National Guard and Reserves commit suicide each day. This is a significantly higher suicide rate than the civilian suicide rate.

The VA is the only healthcare system with full-time employees dedicated to suicide prevention. Suicide prevention coordinators are part of the VA’s effort to combat veteran suicide: they identify high-risk veterans and ensure they receive appropriate care, conduct outreach, and promote awareness and best practices within the VA system. As of April 2019, the VA had approximately 444 suicide prevention coordinators stationed at medical centers across the country managing care for almost 30,000 veterans at high risk for suicide.

In FY2018, VA suicide coordinators conducted over 20,000 outreach events, reaching almost two million people. During oversight trips to VA facilities, VA committee staff heard from coordinators who were overworked and struggling to keep up with their casework. As an example of this phenomenon, the Atlanta VA crisis line has just eight social workers and one employee for administrative support to respond to all crisis line referrals (which totaled 3,600 in 2018) and approximately 200 veterans identified as high risk for suicide.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / vadimguzhva)

AKA

Support for Suicide Prevention Coordinators Act

Official Title

To direct the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct an assessment of the responsibilities, workload, and vacancy rates of Department of Veterans Affairs suicide prevention coordinators, and for other purposes.

    VETERANS, SPECIALLY COMBAT VETS, COMMIT SUICIDE AT A MUCH HIGHER RATE THAN THE CIVILIAN POPULACE AND NEED ALL THE HELP WE CAN GIVE THEM!
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    State issues, not a national power under the Constitution
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    This will only lead to the expanding of the VA for more staff which does nothing but stalls for our vets. We don't want the VA in the first place. Leave this for private organizations. They do a better job looking out for our veterans than the VA ever will
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