Underwood’s Bipartisan Legislation to Address the Veteran Suicide Crisis Signed Into Law
WASHINGTON— Today, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14) announced that her legislation to address the veteran suicide crisis has been signed into law. The Veterans’ Care Quality Transparency Act (H.R.2372) will ensure both VA and outside providers offer veterans high-quality mental health and suicide prevention services. The bipartisan legislation unanimously passed the Senate on Thursday, September 24, 2020.
“Veterans have made incredible sacrifices for our country, and often face unique mental health challenges when they return from service —challenges that may be compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Underwood. “The best way to thank a veteran is to ensure they’re properly cared for when they return home, which is why I fight for the highest standards of veteran health care, especially when it comes to suicide prevention; I’m pleased this crucial legislation is now the law of the land so that we may best support our nation’s heroes.”
More than 7,300 veterans, servicemembers, reservists, and members of the National Guard die by suicide each year—around 20 per day. Underwood’s legislation directs the Government Accountability Office to assess the effectiveness of memoranda of understanding and agreement that VA has entered with entities providing mental health and suicide prevention services, ensuring that they are providing high-quality care. The bill also calls for a statistical breakdown of the entities that serve veterans who are women, minorities, and seniors, as well as veterans’ families.
As a member of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, the Servicewomen and Women Veterans Congressional Caucus, and the Women Veterans Task Force, Underwood has worked to improve veterans’ access to quality care and has worked to help ensure veterans receive the care they have earned. In August, Underwood introduced the Lethal Means Safety Training Act (H.R. 8084) which would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to expand its evidence-based lethal means safety training to VA staff and contractors who regularly interact with veterans. Underwood’s legislation includes expanding evidence-based training that both VA and the White House have called for to address the veteran suicide crisis. In September 2019, Underwood introduced the ACE Veterans Act and the Post-9/11 Veteran Suicide Prevention Counseling Act to improve access to quality care for veterans.