December 21, 2023

Kilmer Champions Bill to Reinstate Reserves and Guard in VA Suicide Reports

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Guy Reschenthaler (PA-14), and Derrick Van Orden (WI-03) introduced legislation to direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to include former members of the Reserves and Guard in its annual suicide report. After the 2020 report, the VA stopped including a separate statistic on suicides of former members of the Guard and Reserve, who were not federally activated.

“If you serve this country, the federal government should have your back,” said Rep. Kilmer. “As a Co-Chair of the House Military Mental Health Task Force, I’m deeply committed to addressing the mental health challenges faced by our service members, including those in the Reserves and National Guard not federally activated during their service. However, 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. We owe it to every person who has served our nation in the armed forces, in any capacity, to ensure they receive the mental health support they need and deserve.”

“Over 20 veterans die by suicide each day, a sad reality for our heroes who have sacrificed so much for our nation,” said Rep. Reschenthaler. “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. That begins with an accurate count of these tragedies so we can work towards combatting them. I thank Reps. Van Orden and Kilmer for joining me on this important legislation.”

“I worked with National Guards and Reserves in combat, and these men and women deserve the same services as active-duty personnel because veteran suicide does not discriminate on the nature of one’s military service,” said Rep. Van Orden. “All our servicemembers, regardless of what capacity they served in, deserve to have their mental health and well-being taken seriously. This includes the men and women who have served our nation through the Army Reserves, such as those here at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin’s Third District, and the National Guard. By reinstating former members of the Reserves and the Guard in the Veterans’ Affairs annual suicide report, we will have a more comprehensive understanding of veterans’ mental health and can better identify ways to combat veterans’ suicide and get them the support they need.”

In 2018, there were 538 suicides among former members of the Armed Forces who were never activated for Federal military service, an average of 1.5 suicide deaths per day, according to the 2020 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.

Reps. Kilmer and Van Orden are co-chairs of the House Military Mental Health Task Force, which addresses issues about military mental health and suicide prevention. Rep. Reschenthaler is also a member of the task force, collaborating with subject matter experts, disseminating information, and providing resources to members and their staff so they can learn about the challenges facing America’s former and current servicemembers and their families.