Legislation (S.02036/A.03237) Establishes Another Method of Tracking Veteran Suicides in Order to Compile More Accurate Data
Governor Kathy Hochul today signed legislation (S.02036/A.03237)
“Veterans risk their lives to keep us safe, yet too many — like my uncles who served in Vietnam — aren’t given the welcome home that they and thousands of other veterans deserve,” Governor Hochul said. “This legislation will ensure New York has accurate data to help us care for these heroes, allowing us to work on preventative strategies for early intervention and help all those who served in uniform.”
The new law adds a new subdivision to direct a coroner, coroner’s physician or medical examiner to file a report to the Division of Veterans Services after any death which appears to be a suicide by a person who is believed to be a veteran. This report is to be made in consultation with DOH and includes the number of veterans who died by suicide, trends of veteran suicides within the last 5 years, and a comparison of veteran suicide rates by county, statewide, and nationally. The first report will be due in June of 2024 and subsequent reports will be due every 3 years thereafter.
According to the Pentagon’s annual suicide report, active-duty military suicides hit a record high in 2018, jumping by 13 percent. In November 2017, the New York State Suicide Prevention Task Force was created. This past April, the task force released findings showing that veteran suicide rates are significantly higher than those rates of non-veterans. One common theme found in both national and state reports is the issue of the data. Current data is inaccurate and incomplete, hindering the ability to understand the problem in its entirety. This law will help to improve suicide surveillance data methods to gather more information on veterans’ suicide rates.
State Senator John E. Brooks said, “We know that suicide rates among veterans are significantly higher than those of non-veterans and up until now issues with reporting as much has been inaccurate and incomplete. By signing this legislation into law, Governor Hochul has taken a major step forward in improving how we identify and ultimately address the mental and emotional pain suffered by so many of our women and men who served in uniform. I am proud to have sponsored this bill in the New York Senate and I am grateful to our Governor for prioritizing the wellbeing of veterans across the state.”
Assemblymember Pamela J. Hunter said, “As a state we are always striving to better serve our veterans. While veteran services continue to adapt as needs change one thing that has remained consistent is the alarmingly disproportionate rate of veteran suicides compared to the general population. This bill ensures that more veteran suicides will get reported to the Division of Veterans’ Services, which will allow us to better assess factors surrounding veteran suicides and inform our prevention strategies. I commend Governor Hochul for signing this legislation and for her dedication to helping veterans in need.”