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Kaine Cosponsors Bipartisan Bill to Help Prevent Veteran Suicide

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services (SASC) and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committees, cosponsored the Not Just a Number Act, bipartisan legislation led by Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and John Boozman (R-AR) that would help the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) better prevent veteran suicide. Specifically, the legislation would require the VA to evaluate the relationship between VA benefits and suicide outcomes in their annual suicide prevention report.

“The immense sacrifices our veterans make for us can take a toll on their mental health, and we owe it to them to ensure they have access to the most supportive and effective VA benefits available,” said Kaine. “The Not Just a Number Act would help us better understand which benefits those are, expand access to them, and get veterans the help they need.”

Currently, the VA uses medical and mental health appointments to identify the number of veterans who died by suicide and had recent interactions with VA. 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.

Kaine has long supported efforts to expand access to health care and mental health resources for servicemembers, veterans, and their families. Kaine made mental health a top priority in this year’s Senate-passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and continues to advocate for the inclusion of those provisions in the final NDAA. Kaine introduced legislation to support the families of disabled veterans by providing critical support and assistance in accessing local, state, and federal resources to the approximately 2.3 million children under the age of 18 living in a household with a disabled veteran. He also cosponsored bipartisan legislation to provide better identification, intervention, and care to veterans coping with mental health issues in underserved areas.

Full text of the bill is available here.