March 16, 2021
During American Legion’s Buddy Check Week, Ernst, Hassan Work to Combat Veteran Suicide
The bipartisan bill would build on the American Legion’s efforts and direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to develop and implement collaborative education opportunities for veterans to learn how to conduct wellness checks.
WASHINGTON—During the American Legion’s Buddy Check Week, U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H) are teaming up to help combat veteran suicide. Their bipartisan bill would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to designate one week per year as “Buddy Check Week” to organize outreach events and educate veterans on how to conduct peer wellness checks.
Click here for a video on the importance of the bill.
“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.”
"Those who have served our country to keep us safe, secure, and free sometimes come home with mental health or emotional challenges, and they need help facing those challenges," Senator Hassan said. "The Buddy Check program that the American Legion stood up is a really great way to bring attention to this issue. Our bipartisan bill builds on what the American Legion already started so that the VA can further assist veterans in helping each other.”
The bill directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to designate one week each 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. Under the bill, the VA would work directly with non-profits that serve veterans, mental health experts, and members of the Armed Forces, to provide educational opportunities for veterans to learn how to conduct wellness checks. Additionally, the bill would ensure that the Veterans Crisis Line has a plan in place for the potential increase in calls that may occur during a “Buddy Check Week.”
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