McNerney Lauds Passage of Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Act
October 23, 2007
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-11) praised the passage of H.R. 327, the Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Act. The measure requires the development and implementation of a comprehensive program to reduce the incidence of suicide among veterans.
“As our brave men and women in uniform return home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the nature of these conflicts means additional and changing demands being placed on the VA,” said Rep. McNerney. “Those demands include addressing post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, the signature injury of the war in Iraq. In some cases these injuries are the root cause behind the staggering number of soldiers who have attempted or contemplated suicide.”
H.R. 327 passed the House with unanimous support.
The Defense Department estimates that 114 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have already committed suicide and that nearly one out of every 100 Iraq veterans has considered suicide. Suicide rates are 35 percent higher for Iraq veterans than for the general population. And the Department of Defense recently reported that the Army is now seeing the highest rate of suicide since the Vietnam War.
The Joshua Omvig Act, named for a soldier from Iowa who took his life after returning from Iraq, directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to step up screening, counseling and other mental health services for returning war veterans.
The bill will ensure VA staff are trained to recognize the symptoms of PTSD and suicidal thoughts, monitors all veterans who receive medical care in the VA health care system for mental health problems, provides for suicide prevention counselors at each medical facility, so that when Veterans need help, they can get it immediately, and establishes a suicide hotline for veterans to call.
“We must also provide our veterans with the support and care they need to return to a healthy and productive civilian life. That is why I strongly support the Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Act,” Rep. McNerney said.
The House passed a previous version of this legislation back in March. The version voted on today comes as a result of reconciliation with the Senate. The bill will now be forwarded to President Bush for his signature.