Pentagon officials say they have met lawmakers' requirements for tracking suicides by military family members after two senators sent a letter last week asking about the data.
The requirement was included in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Tim Kaine of Virginia questioned in a July 12 letter whether a system for tracking that data exists.
"This legislation required the Department to issue policy regarding any death reported as a suicide involving a dependent of a member of the Armed Forces, and provide a copy of the policy ... to Congress," Navy Cmdr. Michael Cody, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement to Military.com. "DoD has met the requirements of Section 567 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015."
Kaine and Murray pointed to a recently released annual Pentagon report on military suicide as evidence that the Defense Department is not successfully tracking the data. The extensive report, they noted, does not include any information on the suicide rate among military families.
"While the Department made significant progress in the intervening years to address service member suicide, it appears there is still no reliable system across all services for collecting data on dependent suicide," the letter states.
But Cody told Military.com that the Pentagon has developed a tracking process, which was presented to Congress in an official Defense Department policy late last year. That policy requires the services to cross-check military family deaths reported by service members as part of personnel records with the Pentagon's suicide data repository and then report that data per quarter.
Cody said the Pentagon will brief House Armed Services Committee members on the "resources, methods and approaches to train and educate dependents on suicide risk factors and ways to support their Service member, promote healthy environments, and reduce the overall risk factors for suicide" by Dec. 1, when that information is due.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.