Tester Stands with Montana Women

Senate Unanimously Passes Tester’s Bill to Combat Female Veteran Suicides

(U.S. Senate)-The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed Senator Jon Tester’s legislation that addresses the growing epidemic of suicide among female veterans.

Tester’s bill, the Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act, requires the VA to provide effective, gender specific mental health care for female veterans. The bill also requires the VA to include data on female veterans in its annual evaluation of mental health and suicide prevention initiatives. It also requires the VA to identify mental health and suicide prevention initiatives that are most effective and have the highest success rates among female veterans.

“Women who bravely serve this nation should always receive our full unwavering support,” Tester said. “My Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act will make critical changes to the VA to ensure that women get the best mental health care after returning home from war.”

Earlier this year, witnesses before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee testified to Tester that female veterans commit suicide at nearly six times the rate of non-veteran women, and for females between the ages of 18 and 29, that rate increases to nearly twelve times the civilian rate. Additionally, according to recent reports, suicide rates among women veterans rose 40 percent during the decade from 2000-2010, compared to a 13 percent increase among civilian women.

Tester is the only member of the Montana Congressional delegation sponsoring the Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act.

Tester’s bill is supported by the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS, National Military Family Association, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the American Osteopathic Association.

Tester helped pass the Clay Hunt Act in 2015, which improves the VA’s suicide prevention program by helping the VA recruit additional mental health professionals, requiring annual independent reviews of suicide prevention programs, and developing a peer support network to improve the transition of service members leaving active duty.

Tester is also sponsoring the Access to Contraception for Women Servicemembers and Dependents Act, which will allow military dependents and women enrolled in TRICARE insurance to access contraception without a copay regardless of where they live, just like women enrolled in private insurance through an employer or online marketplaces. The bill would also require military treatment facilities to inform every sexual assault survivor of the availability of emergency contraception.

Additionally, Tester is sponsoring the Women Veterans And Families Health Services Act that allows the VA and Defense Department to provide reproductive services, including in vitro fertilization, to service members, veterans and their families who suffered wounds of war that prevent them from starting families.