We were encouraged to read about the U.S. House's Sept. 23 passage of the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, which passed the Senate unanimously Aug. 5. President Trump was expected to sign the measure as this editorial was being written.

In a time infamous for its hyper-partisanship, it is refreshing to see the men and women whose job it is to serve the people of this country work together on a measure to benefit those who have put self-interest second to service.

According to The Center Square, a website covering U.S. state and local government and economics, Maine has the fifth-highest percentage of veterans in the nation. Therefore, this legislation is of particular importance to our state. The Veterans Administration reports that, in 2017, the most recent year for which statistics are available, Maine's veteran suicide rate was 42.1 per 100,000, while the rate of suicide among the state's general population was 24.7. For the nation as a whole, the veteran suicide rate that year was 31.0 and the general rate was 18.1.

The bill, according to a Sept. 23 article in Stars and Stripes, "creates a grant program that would allow up to $750,000 to be awarded to community organizations. The legislation includes dozens of measures in addition to the new grant program. One requires the VA to establish a plan for boosting its mental health staff, and another creates a scholarship program to increase staff at Vet Centers."

The story goes on to say that the measure requires the General Accounting Office and the VA Office of Inspector General to "initiate investigations into a host of issues," including VA mental health staffing and the effectiveness of the VA's suicide prevention outreach. The latter, according to an article in Stars and Stripes from March 5, has been sharply criticized by advocates for veterans, as well as legislators and government officials.

Also mandated is a website that provides female veterans a one-stop source of information about available benefits and health care services, the story says.

We are glad as well that the House and Senate engaged in the sort of political bargaining that has recently come into ill-repute, but which is in fact the stuff of which legislation is made: in exchange for the House's support of the Hannon Act, the Senate is expected, according to the recent Stars and Stripes piece, to approve the Veterans' COMPACT Act.

This measure, according to Stars and Stripes, "includes nine provisions, one of which orders the VA to provide free care to all veterans in mental health crises. The bill creates an education program for families and caregivers of veterans with mental health issues, and it requires the VA police force to undergo de-escalation and crisis-intervention training," as well as ordering studies of how and where female veterans use the VA and how much aid it provides to homeless female vets.

On behalf of Maine veterans and their families, our sincere thanks to all who worked on this legislation and brought it to fruition.