PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is cosponsoring a bipartisan bill aimed at preventing veteran suicide.
The Not Just a Number Act would require the VA to evaluate the relationship between VA benefits and suicide outcomes in their annual suicide prevention report.
Kaine said currently, the VA only uses medical and mental health appointments to identify the number of veterans who died by suicide. The Not Just a Number Act would look at the bigger picture.
“The Not Just a Number Act recognizes that suicide prevention goes beyond mental health care by requiring the VA to take a more comprehensive look at how veterans who died by suicide used other VA benefits, including disability compensation, education and employment benefits, home loans and foreclosure assistance, and housing assistance programs. This bill would help identify the benefits that are most effective in preventing suicide and require the VA to expand access to them,” a press release said.
Kaine told 10 On Your Side’s Lauryn Moss the initial thought was veteran suicides were mainly related to trauma, but he said more research might suggest something else.
“That transition that people might have been too much in my business, but they did know my business and had my back and now I am a free agent and where is my support group. That transition might be more of a factor in military and veteran suicide than trauma,” he said.
Licensed counselor and co-founder of Trails of Purpose Kayla Arestivo said there isn’t a great system to transition and she often hears people describing feeling lost during the transition period.
“When they were once important to the DOD and they had a job role, now they are just a number or a disability card and they are fighting for hours to get a phone call or appointment or they are getting canceled and rescheduled.”
Arestivo said she’s interested to see how the legislation could help fix the problem.
Kaine said this bill is important to make sure we are looking out for veterans.
It’s attempting to do better research about veteran suicide and match them up against VA benefits that are most helpful in reducing suicide,” Sen. Kaine said. “We need more research around which of the treatments or benefits do the best job of reducing suicide risk.”
The bill’s two lead sponsors are Montana Senator Jon Tester (D) and Arkansas Senator John Boozman (R).
You can read the full bill here.
Arestivo works to help service members and veterans through Trails of Purpose.
“We got community groups every Saturday, so these veterans and active duty members know there is a place you can come, belong and people are going to check on you,” she said.
To fill out the application for Trails of Purpose, click here.