WASHINGTON – Congressmen Vern Buchanan announced today that he has introduced bipartisan legislation to identify holes in the current mental health care system for active-duty service members and help reduce military suicides.
“The health and safety of our active-duty military community is one of my top priorities in Congress,” said Buchanan. “Unfortunately, military service often takes an immense psychological toll on our service members and far too many are dying by suicide as a result. We need to ensure our men and women in uniform have access to critical mental health care services where they are stationed so they remain healthy and ready to serve their country.”
Specifically, the Treating Invisible Wounds on Base Act requires the Department of Defense (DoD) to study and report to Congress on the accessibility of mental health care providers on military bases, the accessibility of inpatient mental health services for service members and propose any steps that may be taken to improve the accessibility of those services.
Buchanan was joined by Representatives Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Jen Kiggans (R-Va.) and Brittany Pettersen (D-Colo.) in introducing the bill.
Buchanan introduced the bill following reports of seven sailors taking their own lives while stationed aboard the USS George Washington last year. Last month, a sailor assigned to the USS Montana in Newport News, Va. also died by suicide.
According to the DoD Suicide Report, 328 active duty service members committed suicide in 2021. In the Army alone, 176 service members took their own lives, the highest amount in a single year post-9/11. In 2021, a study from Brown University found that 30,177 active duty personnel and veterans who served in the military post-9/11 have died by suicide – compared to the 7,052 service members killed in combat in those same 20 years.
Buchanan previously introduced the Treating Invisible Wounds on Base Act as an amendment to the FY23 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed the House with broad bipartisan support, but was not included in the final version of the bill signed into law.
In 2021, Buchanan was recognized by Centerstone for his leadership on mental health issues in Congress, including his cosponsorship of legislation to establish 9-8-8, the National Mental Health Crisis Line. He also cosponsored legislation last Congress that was signed into law to help combat suicide and mental health issues among frontline health care workers.