Veteran Suicide Prevention Bills Will Move Forward After Committees Reach Compromise

Source: Patricia Kime,

The House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees have agreed on veteran suicide prevention legislation that would provide grants to charities and other non-governmental organizations focused on mental health and ensure that veterans have access to care during mental health crises.

Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman, and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, hammered out a plan late Monday that includes nine provisions to support veterans, in addition to a measure that passed the Senate last month.

The new legislation, dubbed the Veterans Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care and Treatment, or COMPACT, bill, includes a Takano-sponsored bill mandating that the Department of Veterans Affairs cover acute care for emergency mental health crises, either at the VA or at a private facility.

The compromise legislation also would require the VA to furnish annual reports on its program to support veterans in the first year after they leave service; contact veterans who have not reached out to the department in two or more years; and provide annual training to all its security officers and police on de-escalation and crisis intervention, among other requirements.

The proposal will be considered by the House committee Thursday during a markup of legislation and is expected to be approved by the Senate and the House, which in turn will vote on the Cmdr. Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act.

Last week, the committee debated more than two dozen pieces of legislation to address veteran suicide, including a measure that would have required most VA employees to be trained on asking about access to lethal means for suicide like guns and a provision aimed at improving mental health in the Native American veteran population.

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