Recap Of Chairman Lynch Hearing On Veteran And Active-Duty Military Suicides

May 13, 2019 Issues: Committee on Oversight and Reform, National Security, Veterans

Washington, D.C. – On May 8th, 2019, Congressman Stephen F. Lynch, Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, held a hearing on “Veteran and Active-Duty Military Suicides” to examine the enduring and pressing emergency of military suicides among veterans and active-duty servicemembers, as well as Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) efforts to prevent military suicides.  The hearing also assessed the role of veterans advocacy organizations, mental health and crisis support groups, and local communities to prevent veteran suicides.

TAKEAWAYS

  • Democratic and Republican Members of the Subcommittee agreed about the need for bipartisan, comprehensive solutions to address the suicide crisis facing our nation’s veterans and active-duty servicemembers.  Members from both parties recognized the need for the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to work hand-in-hand to provide high-quality healthcare and suicide prevention treatment options to the U.S. military community.
  • Dr. Karin Orvis, Director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office at DOD, and Dr. Richard Stone, Executive in Charge at the Veterans Health Administration, testified that the one-year transition period from active-duty to veteran status is an especially stressful time for servicemembers that can increase the risk of destructive behavior.  DOD and VA must ensure an effective, consistent handoff for transitioning servicemembers and continue to monitor them beyond their transition period.
  • Terri Tanielian, a senior behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation, testified to the importance of developing and testing programs that promote the safe handling and storage of firearms.  Firearms are the primary method of suicide by both active-duty(62.2% of suicides in 2016) and veteran servicemembers (69.4% of suicides in 2016).
  • As most veterans do not receive healthcare services through the VA, Ms. Tanielian testified about the need for improving the training and education of private healthcare providers to care for veterans and servicemembers, as well as to better identify warning signs of potential distress.

WITNESSES

Captain (Dr.) Mike ColstonDirector, Mental Health Programs - U.S. Department of Defense

Dr. Karin OrvisDirector, Defense Suicide Prevention Office - U.S. Department of Defense

Dr. Richard StoneExecutive in Charge, Veterans Health Administration - U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Dr. Keita FranklinNational Director for Suicide Prevention, Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention - U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Terri TanielianSenior Behavioral Scientist - RAND Corporation

VIDEOS

Watch Chairman Lynch's opening statement.

SUICIDE PREVENTION RESOURCES

You can find recommendations for reporting on suicide here

There are specially trained responders ready to help servicemembers and veterans 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year:

  • servicemembers and veterans can dial 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 to talk to someone;
  • send a text message to 838255 to connect with a VA responder;
  • or, start a confidential online chat session at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat