Continuing his efforts to address the veteran suicide crisis, Congressman Max Rose, a Member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, introduced new legislation today to help address the epidemic of veteran suicide by requiring the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to share information, in accordance with privacy regulations, regarding the rates of deployment for servicemembers and the frequency of service in combat operations in an effort to identify risk of suicide. A study by the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences found that servicemembers who served 12 or fewer months before their first deployment were twice as likely to attempt suicide compared to those who had more time training before their first deployment. In addition, Duke University Medical Center study results indicated that combat exposure was indirectly related to suicidal behavior.
"Every veteran who loses their life to suicide is one too many and we must be doing everything in our power to address this crisis," said Rose, an Army combat veteran. "There's no reason that VA and DoD can't and shouldn't be working together to use all available information, data and resources to identify any trends, including deployment tempo and frequency, that could help prevent veteran suicide and improve the mental health of our servicemembers and veterans. It's mind boggling the gap in data sharing between DoD and VA when it comes to the health and wellbeing of our veterans as they transition out of active duty and this legislation will help close that gap."
Rose's bill, the VA/DoD Deployment Interoperability Act, would require the Secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs to update the interoperable electronic health record systems of their respective departments to, in accordance with federal law protecting the privacy of our veterans, include:
Whether the member of the Armed Forces or veteran was deployed outside the United States;
The number of deployments the member of the Armed Forces or veteran served;
The length of each deployment served, and;
Whether the member or veteran served in a theater of combat operations.
Rose has been a champion for bridging the data sharing gap between DoD and VA while serving as a Member on the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. At a hearing on veteran suicides last April, Rose questioned Dr. Richard Stone, Executive in Charge of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), on this issue. "There are deeply troubling issues regarding operational pace and that is not only the intensity of ongoing combat in a 12 to 15 month deployment, as well as the dwell time when we bring these service members back," Dr. Stone testified.
In his efforts to address veteran suicide, Rose has continually pressed this issue with VA leadership. Earlier this year, Rose sent a letter to Secretary Wilkie urging him to include guidance on this data sharing in the President's Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) report. Last February, Rose joined Secretary Wilkie at the White House to discuss the effects of increased data sharing on clinical outcomes for our veterans, and continued that discussion later in the year.
Rose has made fighting for veterans and expanding access to health care and transportation services a top priority. With the support of the VA, the House of Representatives passed Rose's FIGHT Veterans Suicide Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at stemming the public health crisis of veteran suicides on VA campuses.