The word is out – military suicides in 2012 exceeded those in 2011. More dollars spent on more programs has resulted in a negative return on results – and Washington State’s senior U.S. Senator Patty Murray is working to turn the tide.
The following is the official press release from Senator Murray’s office:
On January 3rd, 2013 an amendment sponsored by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, that would require the Pentagon to implement a standardized and comprehensive suicide prevention program was signed into law by the President as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (S.3254). Murray crafted the amendment after a major study by the RAND Corporation showed that there are serious gaps and a lack of consistency in military services’ suicide prevention programs.
The new law comes as the number of active duty suicides continues to rise with 2012 exceeding 2011. “This law is another step forward in our efforts to ensure that servicemembers aren’t slipping through the cracks,” said Senator Murray. “It will help to not only standardize suicide prevention efforts, but also contains provisions to reduce wait times, ensure proper diagnoses, and achieve true coordination of care and information between the Pentagon and the VA. We cannot afford to be passive about the military suicide epidemic we face. We must continue to respond with every legislative and outreach effort possible in order to turn this tragic trend around.”
Murray’s amendment calls for the Department of Defense to create a comprehensive, standardized suicide prevention program; expand eligibility for Department of Veterans Affairs mental health services to family members; strengthen oversight of DoD Mental Health Care and the Integrated Disability Evaluation System; improve training and education for our health care providers; create more peer-to-peer counseling opportunities; and require VA to establish accurate and reliable measures for mental health services.
You can find more information on Murray’s ACCESS Act, which was signed into law as part of the Defense Authorization Act, here.
Bottom line: I think we are on the right path – however, as many of us know, laws have to be enforced and new methods executed in order for there to be effectiveness and change. I truly hope fundamental change occurs with how we deal with this issue – lives depend on it.
Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.