Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Three Buchanan Proposals Pass U.S. House!

Jul 18, 2022
Press Release
Measures Included in Annual Defense Bill
Provisions Address Access to Mental Health Care for Troops Tactical Vehicle Safety and Safe Opioid Disposal

WASHINGTON – Congressman Vern Buchanan today announced that three of his proposals were included in the House-passed FY23 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“These three proposals seek to address the health and safety of our active-duty military community, one of my top priorities in Congress,” said Buchanan. “I’m pleased to see these provisions pass the House this week with unanimous support and am very hopeful they will be enacted into law.”

The three Buchanan provisions include:

  • An amendment to require the Department of Defense (DoD) to study and report to Congress on the accessibility of mental health care providers on military bases, the accessibility of inpatient mental health services for service members and steps that may be taken to improve the accessibility of those services.
  • An amendment to require the Government Accountability Office to study and determine the feasibility of utilizing black box data recorders in tactical vehicles to prevent future accidents.
  • An amendment to require the DoD to maintain prescription drop boxes on all military bases to allow for the safe disposal of unused prescription drugs, including opioids.

Buchanan’s first amendment aims to identify holes in mental health care for active-duty service members, and in turn, reduce military suicides. This amendment was, in part, offered because of the reports of sailors dying while stationed aboard the USS George Washington, four of whom took their own lives in less than 12 months, prompting the removal of over 200 sailors from the ship earlier this year.

According to the DoD Suicide Report, 328 active duty servicemembers committed suicide in 2021. In the Army alone, 176 service members took their own lives, the highest amount in a single year post-9/11. In 2021, a study from Brown University found that 30,177 active duty personnel and veterans who served in the military post-9/11 have died by suicide – compared to the 7,052 service members killed in combat in those same 20 years.

Buchanan’s second amendment 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 Panipinto, died when the M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle he was driving overturned during a road-test in 2019 in South Korea.

Numerous safety and training failures contributed to SPC Panipinto’s death, including malfunctions of the vehicle’s communication systems, defective or broken equipment, a lack of medical services on base and significant delays in medical response to the scene of the accident.

Buchanan had a series of sweeping military training reforms included in the FY22 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.

Buchanan’s third amendment seeks to require the DoD to install prescription drop-off boxes on all military bases to prevent potential drug overdoses. Allowing service members to easily dispose of unneeded and excess medications prevents medication misuse and prevents opioid addiction.

In 2021, 107,622 Americans died from a drug overdose.

Buchanan has also introduced the Veteran Overmedication and Suicide Prevention Act (H.R.67) to require the Department of Veterans Affairs 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.

Earlier this year, Buchanan also secured $2 million to increase grants to prevent prescription drug and opioid overdoses as part of a sweeping government funding package.