Matt Willhite bill urges Congress to fund suicide prevention for veterans

Willhite notes troubling trends in the veteran suicide rate.

Rep. Matt Willhite filed a bill Tuesday urging Congress to recognize the veteran suicide epidemic and to fully fund suicide prevention efforts at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The bill, HM 71, is a memorial bill. If passed, copies of the bill urging action would be delivered to the President, Vice President, the Speaker of the House and to each member of Florida’s congressional delegation.

“The time is past due that our country work more aggressively to protect at home the brave men and women in the military that protect and defend our country and our democracy,” said Willhite, a Wellington Democrat.

“Florida has the third largest veteran population in the country — we must lead the nation in urging the United States Congress to recognize the current crisis of veteran suicide and to fund fully the suicide prevention efforts taken by the United States Department of Veterans affairs.”

The 2020 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs found there were 6,435 veteran suicide deaths in 2018 — or 17.6 veteran suicides a day.

A news release from Willhite’s office notes the 2020 total could shoot up because of “the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which mental health experts warn may lead to even larger increases in the rates of mental distress among veterans.”

The release noted other struggles that veterans could face when transitioning to civilian employment. Often times, the highly developed skills that veterans obtain while they are in the military do not translate to higher-level civilian jobs, and can result in economic disparities, unemployment, and even homelessness.

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