In Advance of NDAA Markup, Trahan, Speier, and Cisneros Introduce Legislation to Strengthen Military Suicide Prevention
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representatives Lori Trahan (MA-03), Jackie Speier (CA-14), and Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (CA-39), members of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced the Comprehensive Review of Military Suicide Act to strengthen the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) ability to prevent servicemember suicides by bolstering the review process of data collected on suicide related events in the military.
“Our servicemembers are dying by suicide at increasingly higher rates each year. It’s clear that more needs to be done by the leadership of the Department of Defense to prevent our men and women in uniform who sacrifice so much from taking their own lives. I’m proud to introduce this legislation to require that Department leaders implement updated suicide prevention protocols guided by experts who have closely examined the data on suicides in our Armed Forces,” Congresswoman Trahan said.
“We mourn every life lost to suicide, and we have a responsibility to our military servicemembers and military families to do everything we can to prevent suicide,” said Congresswoman Speier, the Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee. “That includes getting to the bottom of the facts whenever a service member or military family member takes their own life so we can take action to save lives. We must and will do more, and Congresswoman Trahan’s bill is an important step.”
“Too many of our men and women in uniform have died by suicide. Congress and the Department of Defense need to make sure we do a better job at helping those who selflessly serve our country,” said Congressman Cisneros. “As a Navy Veteran, I’m proud to join Reps. Speier and Trahan in introducing legislation to improve and strengthen suicide prevention efforts in the military. Our servicemembers have always had our backs. It’s time we had theirs.”
According to the Pentagon’s most recent annual suicide report on military suicides, 541 active duty and reserve servicemembers died by suicide in 2018. Alarmingly, the report also shows an increase in the suicide rate among active duty servicemembers over the past five years.
The Comprehensive Review of Military Suicide Act would require the creation of a multidisciplinary board made up of a command or installation level commander, medical and mental health organization representative, and military criminal investigative organization representative who would be responsible for reviewing reports of suicide related deaths of U.S. servicemembers. The comprehensive findings from this board, paired with the currently available data, will be used to make recommendations to DoD leadership on how to best prevent servicemember suicide.
In 2014, DoD’s Inspector General issued a report titled “DoD Suicide Event Report (DoDSER) Data Quality Assessment,” which reviewed the Department’s current reporting requirements for suicide related events. The report included several recommendations, including the creation of a multidisciplinary board, to enhance DoD’s ability to collect accurate data to better highlight suicide trends so that informed policies could be implemented to prevent future suicides.
In response to the Inspector General’s report, the Department released a Suicide Prevention Program in 2017 that adopted several of the IG’s recommendations, but notably excluded the formation of a multidisciplinary review board. DoD is currently rewriting the suicide prevention instruction.
Trahan, Speier, and Cisneros are advocating for inclusion of the Comprehensive Review of Military Suicide Act in H.R. 6395, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, which will be marked up by the House Armed Services Committee today.