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Ranking Member Roe Calls for Immediate House Passage of Bipartisan Bill to Prevent Veteran Suicide

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Washington, August 18, 2020 | Samantha Gonzalez | comments

Today, Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, released the following statement after sending a letter to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer urging House consideration of S. 785, as amended, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019, this week.

“Today, I join my friends in the Senate, in VA, and in the veteran service organization community in calling on the House to pass S. 785 when we reconvene this week and send it to the President’s desk to be signed into law without delay. We have been talking all Congress about how suicide prevention is our first priority. Now is the time to prove that it really is. This bill alone won’t end the tragedy of veteran suicide, but it is an undoubtedly important next step that will save lives. We should take it without hesitation and then we should get back to work.”

Twenty servicemembers and veterans die by suicide every day. S. 785 would prevent veteran suicide by expanding access to care, services, and support for at-risk individuals within the VA healthcare system and in their local communities. The bill is widely supported among veteran service organizations and direct service providers and includes numerous bipartisan provisions that have been introduced in both the House and Senate. One of those provisions is based off of the bipartisan Improve Act and is named after Ranking Member Roe’s constituent, SSgt Parker G. Fox, who tragically lost his life to suicide earlier this summer.

To read the joint letter in support of S. 785 by the Disabled American Veterans, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, The American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, click here.

To read the joint letter in support of S. 785 by thirty community based service programs that serve veterans and military families, click here.

If you or a veteran you know is in crisis, free, confidential support is available 24/7 by calling the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and pressing 1, texting 838255, or visiting https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/.  

The full text of Dr. Roe’s letter to House Democrat Leadership can be found here and below.

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker
U.S. House of Representatives
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20215

The Honorable Steny Hoyer
Majority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
H-107, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20215

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer:

I write to urge you to act to prevent veteran suicide by scheduling S. 785, as amended, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019, for consideration when the House reconvenes in the coming days.

I know that you share my deep grief in the tragic loss of twenty servicemembers and veterans to suicide every day and agree that preventing that loss should be one of our highest priorities. That is why Chairman Takano and I made suicide prevention the primary goal of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs this Congress. Our joint commitment to preventing veteran suicide and improving veteran mental health is reflected in the growing number of Committee roundtables, hearings, and legislation, much of which is reflected in the bipartisan provisions of S. 785.

S. 785 would create a stronger system of support for veterans at-risk of suicide within the Department of Veterans Affairs and through communities of care across the country. It is sponsored by Chairman Moran and Ranking Member Tester of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and passed the Senate with unanimous support earlier this month. The bill is also strongly supported by veteran service organizations. In fact, four of the largest veterans service organizations – the Disabled American Veterans, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, The American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars – wrote to Chairman Takano and me last week calling on Congress to “act swiftly and pass, without delay, S. 785.” Just yesterday, thirty of the largest veteran community collaboratives and direct service providers wrote to urge, “all members of Congress to seize this historic opportunity to improve the lives of veterans, their families, and caregivers by empowering communities to reduce veteran suicide.” I echo their call in the strongest possible terms.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased concerns about the mental health and wellness of our nation’s veterans and made the need for timely action to save their lives more acute. Every day we fail to act is another day in which twenty of the brave men and women who have served our country in uniform will lose their battle against suicide and self-harm. On their behalf, I hope that you will add S. 785 to the House Floor calendar at the earliest opportunity.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent request and for your ongoing dedication to veterans and their families.

Sincerely,

David P. Roe, M.D.
Ranking Member

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