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HOUSE PASSES SWEEPING BIPARTISAN VETERAN SUICIDE PREVENTION LEGISLATION

September 23, 2020
Press Release

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act (S.785) to increase veterans’ access to integrative health care and mental health services to improve the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) suicide prevention efforts.  Representative Conor Lamb (PA-17) led multiple provisions included in the final legislation which is now headed to the President’s desk to be signed into law.  In addition, the House passed the bipartisan Veterans’ Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment Act of 2020, or Veterans’ COMPACT Act.  Introduced by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, on which Lamb serves as Vice Chair, the bill features provisions that complement S.785.

“Today proves that we are willing to cross party lines to save the lives of our veterans and give them access to the best in health care,” said Lamb.  “The future of health care is a mix of old and new, and our veterans should be first in line.  Veterans want the choice to use age-old practices like yoga, meditation and acupuncture, but they should also benefit from scientific advances like detecting the biomarkers that will allow us to better treat the invisible wounds of war.  Much work remains to eliminate veteran suicide, but this is an essential step forward.”

Lamb’s provisions included in the S.785 include:

  • Testing, Researching, and Expanding Alternative Treatments (TREAT) Act: Requires the VA to establish a pilot program to provide complementary and integrative health services for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.  The bill also requires a study on the health benefits of providing integrative health treatments such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, chiropractic care and other treatments that help with mental or physical health conditions.
  • VA Precision Medicine Act: Calls on the VA to develop and implement the “Precision Medicine Initiative for Veterans” to identify and validate brain and mental health biomarkers among veterans, with specific consideration for depression, anxiety, PTSD, TBI and bipolar disorder.  The bill also requires that the VA develop robust data privacy and security measures to ensure that the information of veterans participating in the initiative is kept private and secure.
  • VA Data Analytics and Technology Assistance (DATA) Act: Expands the VA’s ability to further contract and work with outside academic and research entities to conduct analyses and evaluation of the vast amounts of data VA collects through its electronic health records and research programs.

Provisions included in the Veterans’ COMPACT Act would:

  • Provide acute crisis care for emergent suicide symptoms (ACCESS Act);
  • Create a pilot program on information sharing between Department of Veterans Affairs and designated relatives and friends of veterans regarding the assistance and benefits available to the veterans;
  • Conduct an annual report on the Solid Start program of the Department of Veterans Affairs;
  • Create an education program for family members and caregivers of veterans with mental health disorders;
  • Make an Interagency Task Force on Outdoor Recreation for veterans;
  • Contact veterans that have not had contact with VA in two or more years to encourage them to receive comprehensive exams so that they continue their eligibility for coverage of emergency care not related to service-connected disabilities;
  • Require annual VA Police de-escalation and crisis intervention training;
  • Conduct a gap analysis of Department of Veterans Affairs programs that aid women veterans who are homeless; and
  • Provide a report on locations where women veterans are using health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Click here to learn more about the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act (S.785) and visit Lamb’s website to see him speak on the House floor in support of the legislation.

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