WASHINGTON – Congressman Vern Buchanan will introduce three bills ahead of Independence Day including the Veteran Overmedication and Suicide Prevention Act, the Restoring Earned Veterans Benefits Act and the Data Recorders Installed in Vehicles Equipped So Armed Forces Endure (DRIVE SAFE) Act.

“As someone who represents over 64,000 veterans in Florida’s 16th district, serving our nation’s heroes is one of my top priorities,” said Buchanan. “The brave men and women who served our country in uniform deserve all the care and respect a grateful nation can offer every day – not just on Independence Day.”

The Veteran Overmedication and Suicide Prevention Act would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to review the deaths of all veterans it treated who died by suicide or from a drug overdose in the last five years. The new data generated by the bill will be used to better treat veterans suffering from both mental and physical injuries.

According to the VA’s latest suicide report, 6,146 veterans committed suicide in 2020, or about 17 per day. Veteran suicides accounted for over 16 percent of all suicides in the U.S. that same year.

The legislation is endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and AMVETS.

Pat Murray, the national director of the VFW, said, "The VFW supports the Veterans Overmedication and Suicide Prevention Act of 2021. Understanding the impact of overmedication and veteran suicide begins with data. This legislation will help illuminate the seriousness and scope of this causation. Reducing the number of service members and veterans who die by suicide has been a priority for the VFW and will remain so until it is no longer needed."

Joseph Chenelly, executive director of AMVETS, said, “On behalf of AMVETS, we are proud to support [the Veteran Overmedication and Suicide Prevention Act] that would provide crucial facts that remain scarce in the current conversation regarding veteran suicide…Our hope is that this legislation will encourage the pursuit of more effective treatment methods in the VA and the medical community at large.”

The second bill Buchanan will introduce, the Restoring Earned Veterans Benefits Act, would streamline the process for service members returning to veteran status after a subsequent tour of active duty. Currently, if a veteran returns to active duty, then subsequently leaves military service and returns to veteran status, they must proactively re-apply for veteran benefits. Buchanan’s bill removes that extra step, and their veteran benefits would restart immediately upon leaving service.

Buchanan has a strong record of fighting for veterans and military families. Last year, Buchanan’s VETS Credit Act was signed into law as a standalone measure and will help student veterans by ensuring they are able to quickly and easily transfer their course credits to another institution should their school close or program end suddenly.

Buchanan will also introduce the DRIVE SAFE Act, which aims to evaluate if equipping tactical vehicles with black box data recorders could prevent future accidents. Buchanan has been a leading advocate in Congress for reforming current training procedures and improving emergency response capabilities in Congress after his constituent, Army Specialist Nicolas Panipinto, died when the M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle he was driving overturned during a road-test in 2019 in South Korea.

Buchanan had a series of sweeping military training reforms included in the FY22 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that required the Pentagon to implement more realistic training practices, develop stricter enforcement standards and ensure better oversight to prevent future military training accidents and deaths.

In 2020, Buchanan also offered an amendment to the FY21 NDAA that was also successfully signed into law. His amendment required the DoD to examine emergency response capabilities and services currently available at U.S. bases around the world, and to report to Congress on the potential benefits and feasibility of requiring bases to have properly functioning MedEvac helicopters and fully stocked military ambulances.