Reschenthaler bill would require more military suicide data be included in VA annual report

U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) on Dec. 19 sponsored a bipartisan bill to require that an annual, federal report include information on the rate of suicides among former members of the military reserves and National Guard.

Following the release of its 2020 report, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) stopped including a separate statistic on suicides for former members of the Guard and Reserve who were not federally activated, according to the text of H.R. 6873, which is cosponsored by U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA). 

Reps. Reschenthaler and Kilmer serve on the U.S. House Military Mental Health Task Force, which addresses issues pertaining to military mental health and suicide prevention.

“America has a duty to all those who served our country in uniform to ensure they have the same mental health resources at home that they had on the battlefield,” Rep. Reschenthaler said. “That begins with an accurate count of these tragedies so we can work towards combating them.”

Specifically, H.R. 6873 would direct the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs to include information related to the rate of suicide among those who served in the Guard and Reserves in each National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report published by the VA’s Office Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, the text says. 

“If you serve this country, the federal government should have your back,” said Rep. Kilmer. “The alarming suicide rate among veterans underscores a critical gap in our understanding and support of these brave individuals. By including these former members of the Reserves and National Guard in the VA’s annual suicide report, Congress can take a necessary step toward acknowledging and addressing this crisis.”

H.R. 6873 has been referred for consideration to the U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.