This week Congressman Jack Bergman (R-MI01) and Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA06) introduced the IMPROVE Well-Being for Veterans Act (Incorporating Measurements and Providing Resources for Outreach to Veterans Everywhere) in the U.S. House.
This bill would fundamentally enhance coordination and planning of Veteran mental health and suicide prevention services and would develop measurement tools to track the effectiveness of these community-level programs in order to address the suicide crisis and its impact on Veterans.
Congressman Bergman issued the following release:
“Despite significant VA funding increases for Veteran mental health and suicide prevention over the past 15 years, the number of Veteran suicides per year has remained virtually unchanged. The bipartisan IMPROVE Well-Being for Veterans Act would allow the VA to provide grant funding to nonprofits and local organizations who can supply outreach and a range of services to at-risk Veterans. Preventing Veteran suicide takes a community, and the IMPROVE Act will put forth a new framework for the VA and those nationwide network of organizations to work together and deliver outcomes that benefit our Veterans,” said Rep. Bergman.
“As a veteran, I am passionate about protecting those who have served our country,” said Rep. Houlahan. “I am proud to be introducing the bipartisan IMPROVE Well-Being for Veterans Act to more aggressively work towards preventing tragedies in our veteran-community. It’s also important to note that women veterans are twice as likely to commit suicide as non-veteran women. As the Chair and Founder of the Servicewomen and Women Veterans Congressional Caucus, I am proud to be helping lead this effort alongside my colleagues to stop this epidemic that is killing our veterans.”
Dr. Phil Roe, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs said,“General Bergman’s commitment to doing right by the men and women who served our country in uniform – like he did for so many years – is unparalleled. With the introduction of the IMPROVE Act, he is once again demonstrating that commitment. The IMPROVE Act would make it easier for veterans who are struggling to connect with local nonprofit groups and community organizations that can help meet their needs close to home. This bill has the potential to save lives and I hope that the Committee will consider it as soon as possible. I thank General Bergman and Rep. Houlahan for introducing it.”
On June 19th, U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced the Senate companion to the IMPROVE Act. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) are original cosponsors of the legislation.
“Congress has provided significant resources to the VA to decrease veteran suicides, yet the number of veterans who take their own lives everyday remains unchanged. We believe that the way to reverse this trend is to improve coordination of existing programs; establish a common tool to measure the effectiveness of our programs; and promote better information sharing, data collection and continual feedback in order to identify what services are having the most impact,” said Senator Boozman.
“This approach is key to empowering organizations to work together in the fight against veteran suicide. I appreciate the leadership of Representatives Bergman and Houlahan on this issue and I am grateful that they are championing this important legislation in the House.”
To address these programmatic gaps, the IMPROVE Act will:
Enable the VA to directly or indirectly reach more Veterans than it currently does;
Increase coordination among currently disparate community resources that serve a wide variety of Veteran needs – all of which play a part in reducing the feeling of purposelessness that ends in suicide; and
Create and inspire broad adoption of a measurement tool that will indicate effectiveness of services provided for Veterans suicide prevention.