Levin Legislation to Address Veteran Suicide Passes House
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, a landmark veterans’ mental health and suicide prevention bill that includes Congressman Andy Levin’s bipartisan VA Emergency Department Safety Planning Act, which will help expand a promising mental health program developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
“With my VA Emergency Department Safety Planning Act now on its way to the president's desk, I want to thank my partner, Rep. Steve Stivers, and the House Veteran Affairs Committee for advancing this important bill to help veterans at risk of suicide,” said Rep. Levin. “Americans signing up to serve their country overseas should have a guarantee that their country will serve their mental health needs. When veterans return home with mental health trauma – from PTSD and depression to suicidal ideation – our government needs to be ready with state-of-the-art treatment and care. The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act improves mental health care access for veterans across the country and invests in promising mental health programs like the Safety Planning in Emergency Departments (SPED) program, which my VA Emergency Department Safety Planning Act will improve so that it can be expanded to all those who need care.”
Specifically, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act:
- Bolsters the VA’s mental health workforce to serve more veterans by giving the VA direct hiring authority for more mental health professions, offering scholarships to mental health professionals to work at Vet Centers and placing at least one Suicide Prevention Coordinator in every VA hospital;
- Improves rural veterans’ access to mental health care by increasing the number of locations at which veterans can access VA telehealth services and offering grants to non-VA organizations that provide mental health services or alternative treatment to veterans;
- Strengthens support and assistance for service members transitioning out of the military by automatically giving every service member one full year of VA health care when they leave the military and improving services that connect transitioning veterans with career and education opportunities;
- Studies and invests in innovative and alternative treatment options by expanding veterans’ access to animal, outdoor, or agri-therapy, yoga, meditation, and acupuncture; and
- Holds the VA accountable for its mental health care and suicide prevention efforts by examining how the VA manages its suicide prevention resources and how the VA provides seamless care and information sharing for veterans seeking mental health care from both the VA and community providers.
Rep. Levin’s VA Emergency Department Safety Planning Act builds on a 2018 program under the Veterans Health Administration, requiring detailed reporting on the SPED program, which ensures that emergency room personnel are effectively implementing safety plans and follow-ups for veterans deemed to be at risk of suicide and will help address disparities in suicide prevention programs.