At the close of 2012, one of Sen. Patty Murray’s measures to improve care for war veterans passed into law and another died without reaching the president’s desk.
Her broad measure to reform behavioral health services – including suicide prevention programs – became law when President Obama signed the 2013 Defense authorization bill.
A separate proposal to expand fertility services for severely wounded service members failed to pass the House of Representatives. The Senate passed it last month, but House Republicans declined to bring it to a vote citing concerns about the bill’s $500 million cost.
Matt McAlvanaugh, a spokesman for the Washington Democrat, said Murray intends to submit the fertility bill again early this year. It would enable severely wounded service members to receive in vitro fertilization, a process that often costs more than $15,000 but tends to be far more successful than the basic fertility services the Department of Veterans Affairs offers.
More than 1,800 service members have suffered wounds causing fertility complications since 2003, according to Defense Department data Murray obtained.
Her successful behavioral health amendment to the wide-ranging Defense authorization bill calls on the Pentagon to analyze the best practices of each service’s suicide prevention programs and adopt a standard approach across the military.
It also expands behavioral health services for families of veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs and encourages the military to create peer-counseling programs for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Murray submitted the proposal as a stand-alone bill last summer. She attached it as an amendment to the Defense bill in December.
She shaped the bill in part on a 2011 Rand Corp. study that noted a number of differences in how the Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force approach suicide prevention.
“This law is another step forward in our efforts to ensure that servicemembers aren’t slipping through the cracks,” Murray said in a news release when the president signed the Defense bill on Jan. 3.