The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and based largely on an investigation by Financial Planning that found money woes are a top factor among those who take their own lives, passed the House last week. A Senate vote is expected this summer. The plan would provide $1 million for a first-ever military study to examine the financial factors in the military suicide epidemic and seek the most effective financial planning remedies to address them.
None of the senators or their aides had heard of the proposal, said Omega Hartman, who heads the FPA’s national pro bono efforts. However, when Hartman explained it to them Tuesday, most expressed keen interest, she says. “I am absolutely floored by the reception this is getting.”
Hartman met with, or with aides to, Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), as well as with Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.). Burr, Hagan and Manchin sit on the Senate’s Armed Services Committee.
In addition to discussing the suicide prevention initiative, Hartman proposed that the lawmakers support a plan in which the Defense Department would temporarily forgo demoting soldiers who come forward seeking help with financial issues by offering limited amnesty. Severe money woes are seen as a risk to soldiers with security clearances.
The meetings in Washington were held as part of FPA Advocacy Day, the first the association has held in 14 years.