Veteran suicide prevention a priority for American Legion, Congress

Washington D.C.

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – Wednesday was an important day on Capitol Hill for American veterans. It was their last chance to pitch the most critical issues they’re facing to lawmakers from the House and Senate.

“No veteran should die by his own hands,” American Legion National Commander Bill Oxford said. “That’s an atrocity.”

The veteran suicide epidemic is one of the American Legion’s biggest battles. Oxford says he believes the VA offers the best mental health resources to veterans to fight it.

“We need to make sure every veteran realizes that help is out there,” he said. “Let us help you.”

Rep. Phil Roe – a veteran himself – credits the American Legion’s work with Congress for improving VA healthcare.

“Veterans today have greater access, greater control of their care than ever before,” Roe (R-TN) said.

But the VA reports, of the 20 veteran suicides each day, most did not seek help from the VA.

“I’ve run across veterans who won’t go to the VA. So we’ve got to reach out to them,” Roe said. “I think you guys – ladies and gentlemen – are critical to doing that.”

A bipartisan bill making its way through Congress would expand suicide prevention and emergency care to nonprofits and community programs outside the VA. Senator John Boozman says it would also make sure the money is going to the right place.

“We need the ability to actually measure what these programs are doing,” Boozman (R-AR) said. “Get rid of the ones that aren’t working and then increase the others.”

The legislation is not only a top priority for Congress but also the American Legion, giving it a fighting chance of soon making it to President Donald Trump’s desk.

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