Government affairs

Legislative Updates

Congress invests in suicide prevention for female veterans

On June 30, President Obama signed into law the Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act (H.R. 2915 and S. 2487).

After recognizing the need to help women access culturally competent care, the two companion bills were introduced by Rep. Julia Brown (D-CA) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). Specifically, their measures require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to include metrics on female veterans in the annual evaluations mandated by the Clay Hunt SAV Act.

With more than two million female veterans in the United States—the fastest growing subpopulation of veterans treated by the VA—this need only grows. By gathering this information, the agency can identify which programs are the most effective and have the highest satisfaction rates among female veterans. In other words, the VA can better provide the care, counseling and outreach that these veterans need.

For some time, a blind eye was turned to suicides following military traumas—regardless of gender—but a study released by the VA in May of 2015 highlighted an epidemic among female veterans. The study showed that the suicide rate for female veterans is nearly six times higher than for non-veteran women. The risk doubles—12 percent—for young female veterans 18 to 29 years old.

In fact, after tracking 174,000 veteran and non-veteran suicides from 2000 to 2010, the VA found that suicide rates among female veterans increasing 40 percent.

The new law is part of a broader reform effort pushing the VA to recognize the growing number of female veterans who are trying to access care, a number that is expected to grow significantly in the near future.

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