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The Patch: LI Congressman Leads Effort On New Veteran Suicide Prevention Act

February 24, 2021

Long Island freshman congressman Andrew Garbarino (R-NY-02) partnered with an Ohio congressman to introduce the new Veteran Suicide Prevention Act.

The bill would require the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) to make veteran suicide information publicly available. The review would include the number of veterans who died by suicide in the past five years, along with a summary of the following information:

  • Their age, gender, and race
  • List of the medication they were prescribed and/or found in their system at the time of death
  • Any medical diagnoses by VA doctors
  • Percentage of veterans with combat experience or trauma
  • Veterans Health Administration facilities with markedly high prescription and patient suicide rates
  • A description of VA policies governing the prescribing of medications
  • Recommendations to improve the safety and well-being of veterans.

While suicide is a national concern, rates among veterans are on average 1.5 times higher than those who have not served in the military. According to a VA report, in Sept. 2019 at least 60,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017. Locally, Suffolk County is the home to the highest number of veterans in the state.

"There are over 838,000 veterans living in the Empire State who have put their lives on the line to protect the sanctity of our freedom, and every single one of them deserves the best mental health care available," Garbarino said. "After surviving the horrors of war, we must continue to safeguard the physical and mental health of our nation's heroes. I'm proud to lead this bipartisan effort with Congressman Joyce to combat the alarming uptick in veteran suicides."