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House Passes Bills Seeking To Curb Military Suicides

Soldiers pay tribute to US veterans.

Two bills dealing with the suicide rates among active military service members and military veterans have passed the House of Representatives.

Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, R-South Bend, is a co-sponsor of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, which she says hopes to address the urgent nature of mental health issues among veterans.

"Community-based services, especially in rural areas, is really the front line defense," Walorski says. "I absolutely thing that including them, because of all the testimony that we've heard and documentation, including them will only help. And I think right now when we find something that will help, we fund it and we move it and we try it."

Among other things, the bill would require a third-party evaluation of suicide prevention programs within the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as an examination of which mental health programs need improvement.

The V.A. says 22 veterans commit suicide every day, which Walorski says is why the sense of urgency regarding mental health treatment for veterans needs to be higher.

"I just think the sense of urgency has to be higher. It really is like a five-alarm fire because now you're dealing with the lives of independent men and women that deserve the best when they come back, and that's simply not happening and they're giving up," Walorski says.

Congress is also considering another bill aimed at preventing military suicides. The Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act, authored by Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, is named after the Farmland, Ind. native who committed suicide in 2009.

That bill would require an annual mental health assessment for all service members, maintain strong privacy protections, and require a Pentagon report to provide recommendations for improvement.

Both bills are now waiting to be heard in the Senate.

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