New year for suicide crisis hotline and Blue Water Navy veterans

New year for suicide crisis hotline and Blue Water Navy veterans

Last month, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation unanimously approved the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, S. 2661. The American Legion believes this as a positive step to improve access to mental health care for veterans in need.

The bipartisan act, supported by American Legion Resolution No. 377, would require the Federal Communications Commission to designate 9-8-8 as the universal telephone number for a national suicide prevention and mental-health crisis hotline. Advocates for the hotline believe that designating a three-digit telephone number can transform access to mental health care.

“This easy-to-remember number would make it easier for Americans dealing with a mental health crisis to receive life-saving support,” said Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo. “With the Senate Commerce Committee’s approval today, this bipartisan bill to create a three-digit suicide hotline became one step closer to becoming reality. I will continue to push Congress to create this three-digit hotline.”

In addition to designating 9-8-8 as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, it would include a provision for the Veterans Crisis Line giving veterans fast and easy access to veteran-specific mental health support.

More than 45,000 people die by suicide each year in the United States, including more than 6,100 veterans, said Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Ill. “We need to do everything we can to prevent suicide, and that means improving the tools we have to help people who are suffering from depression or other mental health issues.”

The act is sponsored by Gardner, Baldwin, Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Jon Tester, D-Mont.

VA now processing Blue Water claims
The Department of Veterans Affairs began processing Agent Orange disability claims as of Jan. 1 for Blue Water Navy veterans.

The American Legion-supported Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, which was signed into law in June, states veterans aboard American vessels off Vietnam’s coast between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange, a chemical herbicide, and might be entitled to disability benefits.

According to a VA press release, survivors can file claims for benefits based on the veteran’s service if the veteran died from at least one of the 14 presumptive conditions associated with herbicides such as Agent Orange. The law also provides benefits for children born with spina bifida if their parent is or was a veteran with certain verified service in Thailand during a specific period.

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