INDIANAPOLIS – The National Defense Authorization Act, authored by Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, is on its way to the desk of President Barack Obama.
Congress passed the bill, which would provide improved mental health care for military personnel and their families, Wednesday.
“At a time when our nation faces significant challenges with the rise of ISIS, Assad’s brutality in Syria, Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, and difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s critical that we set a clear defense policy,” Donnelly said in a statement. “We must protect our security and provide for our servicemembers and their families, and I urge the President to re-consider his veto threat and sign the defense bill into law.”
In part, the bill sets national defense policy and funding levels for Pentagon programs.
According to Donnelly’s office, the Department of Defense recorded 443 service members who committed suicide last year.
“The suicide rate among our service members and veterans is a crisis that we must address,” Donnelly said in a media release. “We urgently need to improve mental health care for the men and women who have served our country, and to deliver that care in a way that meets their needs.”
Donnelly says the “Care Package” is intended build on the progress made by the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act, which was signed into law late last year. The Sexton Act — named for Hoosier Jacob Sexton, a National Guardsman who took his life in 2009 — for the first time requires an annual mental health assessment for all service members (active, guard and reserve).
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