[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), along with U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), today praised the Senate's unanimous passage of the Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act. The bill requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to include specific metrics on female veterans in its annual evaluation of mental health and suicide prevention programs and requires them to identify which programs are the most effective and have the highest satisfaction rates among female veterans.
In a recent VA study, researchers tracked over 174,000 veteran and nonveteran suicides from 2000 to 2010 and found that the rate of suicide among female veterans increased 40 percent during that time period. The data also revealed that women veterans-who now account for ten percent of the veteran population-commit suicide at nearly six times the rate of civilian women. The risk doubles for young female veterans between 18-29 years old.
"Senate passage of this bipartisan measure builds on the progress made by legislation I was proud to help lead, the Clay Hunt SAV Act. It is critical to ensuring the VA's mental health and suicide prevention programs meet the gender-specific needs of our nation's women veterans," Senator Blumenthal said. "With suicide among women veterans occurring at an alarming rate, this bill will help literally save lives by ensuring VA is providing the care, counseling and outreach these veterans need."
There are more than two million women veterans in the United States, making them the fastest growing subpopulation of veterans treated by the VA. While the VA has made strides to improve and expand mental health and suicide prevention programs aimed at women, there is no gender-specific data available on the efficacy of these programs.
Similar legislation authored by Congresswoman Julia Brownley (CA-26) passed the House on February 9, 2016. The Senate bill will now head to the House for final passage.