june 6, 2011

Military Suicide Bill Passes House

Additional Funds to address rising rate of veteran suicide one step closer to becoming law

Army Sgt. Coleman Bean, who committed suicide in 2008

NEWARK, NJ - An amendment that would work to help prevent suicide among veterans took its first major step into becoming law, passing the House of Representatives as part of a broader bill addressing military spending. The provision would allocate $20 million to address the growing crisis of returning military personnel taking their own lives.

Under current spending, the VA program dealing with suicide prevention stands at $4.5 million, with few results. The number of veterans returning home who commit suicide is unthinkably high, with an average of 18 veterans taking their own lives every day.

Reps. Rush Holt, D-N.J., and John Runyan, R-N.J., co-authors of the amendment, said in a joint statement that deaths could be prevented if veterans can find help in time.

“On an average day, America loses 18 of our veterans to suicide. These tragic deaths can be prevented – but only if veterans can access the trained, compassionate counseling they need and deserve,” Holt said. “We can only help our veterans if they are aware of the services available, and these funds seek to increase awareness through outreach,” Runyan said.

Holt has worked before to increase suicide-prevention funding, introducing a measure after the 2008 death of Sgt. Coleman Bean, an East Brunswick native who killed himself weeks after returning from his second tour of duty in Iraq. That bill, HR 1089, would require the VA to track and check on the well-being of soldiers like Bean who return from individual deployments; it is pending in committee.

If you are a veteran and you are contemplating suicide, please call the VA’s Suicide Prevention Hotline immediately at 800-273-TALK (8255).