WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a combat veteran, along with Senators Doug Jones (D-AL) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), is introducing a bipartisan bill to help combat veteran suicide. The senators’ bill would designate one week per year as “Buddy Check Week” to organize outreach events and educate veterans on how to conduct peer wellness checks.
“As a combat veteran, I know the challenges our servicemembers face after returning to civilian life. In the Senate, I’ve continued to work across the aisle to support these heroes by expanding access to mental health services,” said Senator Ernst. “This bipartisan bill will build on these efforts by helping our veterans recognize signs of suicide risk so they can check in with their fellow veterans and help get them the care and support they need.”
“Service men and women give so much to our country, and we have a solemn obligation to do everything we can to support them,” said Senator Jones, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “It’s so important that we destigmatize mental health issues, especially for veterans. This bill would help connect veterans with the resources available to them and ensure that they get the support they need.”
“Teaching veterans how to conduct peer wellness checks is a simple and effective way to improve mental health and help prevent veteran suicide,” said Senator Hassan. “This bipartisan legislation will help strengthen the support that veterans need and have earned, and I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this commonsense bill into law.”
“Our most sacred responsibility as a nation is to care for our fellow men and women who have served this nation with honor. The American Legion has long had a ‘Buddy Check Week,’ asking our Legionnaires to conduct veteran outreach as part of their daily routine,” said James W. “Bill” Oxford, National Commander for The American Legion. “The American Legion’s “Buddy Check” program has been a great tool for our members, and we strongly support legislation that expands this program to VA.”
The bill will designate one week per year as “Buddy Check Week” to organize outreach events and educate veterans on how to conduct peer wellness checks and recognize signs of suicide risk among fellow veterans. The bill is modeled after the American Legion’s “Buddy Check National Week of Calling” to connect veterans to better ensure that they receive the care they need.
Specifically, the bill directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA), in consultation with veterans, non-profits that serve veterans, mental health experts, and members of the Armed Forces, to develop and implement collaborative education opportunities for veterans to learn how to conduct wellness checks.