Fri Nov 5th, 2021
Jeremy Wade Shockley
The Southern Ute Drum
Tags: American Legion, Department of Defense (DoD), Government Accountability Office (GAO), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Save Our Servicemembers (S.O.S.) Act, U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)
After alarming report revealed a 15% increase in military suicides, new bipartisan effort would streamline suicide prevention efforts.
U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet this week joined a bipartisan group to introduce the Save Our Servicemembers (S.O.S.) Act. The bill directs the Department of Defense (DOD) to immediately address military suicide rates by evaluating the effectiveness of their suicide prevention efforts, improving data collection, reducing bureaucratic duplication, and strengthening collaboration between DOD offices.
“We should do everything possible to prevent suicide among our servicemembers,” said Hickenlooper. “Improving efforts means we save lives.”
“Now more than ever, we have a responsibility to support the extraordinary men and women in uniform who bravely serve our country every single day,” said Bennet. “Through the Save Our Servicemembers Act, we have an opportunity to take a much-needed step to prevent military suicides and ensure our troops have access to the resources and mental and behavioral health care they need.”
According to the Veterans Administration, Colorado lost 170 veterans to suicide in 2019 — significantly higher than the national suicide rate. An alarming 2020 report revealed a 15 percent increase in military suicides nationally from the year before.
This past spring, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan watchdog agency, released the findings of a review of the DOD suicide prevention programs. The report identified three areas that DOD should address to improve suicide prevention efforts. The S.O.S. Act directs DOD to implement those GAO recommendations, which include:
Assessing DOD’s individual non-clinical prevention efforts to determine their effectiveness.
Improving DOD’s data collection by reducing duplication and developing consistent suicide-related definitions to be used department-wide. This is in response to concerns that inconsistent definitions could be impeding the ability to access and improve prevention programs.
Strengthening collaboration between Pentagon offices, specifically between the Defense Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO) and the Psychological Health Center of Excellence on the production of the annual suicide reports, to minimize duplication of efforts.
The S.O.S. Act has the support of over 30 senators — Democrats and Republicans — as well as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion.