Veterans Groups Back Buchanan Bill to Tackle Veteran Suicides
WASHINGTON -- Congressman Vern Buchanan announced today that his bipartisan bill to investigate the link between addictive opioids and veteran suicides has been endorsed by three leading veterans organizations.
The Veteran Overmedication and Suicide Prevention Act (H.R. 67), co-sponsored by Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-VA, would 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.
“The high rates of suicide and drug overdose deaths among veterans are unacceptable," Buchanan said. “This legislation is critical to learning if prescription drugs, particularly opioid painkillers, are a contributing factor in suicide-related deaths of veterans”
The measure, pending in the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, was endorsed this month by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and AMVETS.
Military leaders think COVID is playing a factor in military suicides.
“COVID adds stress,” said Gen. C.Q. Brown, the Air Force chief, last year. “From a suicide prevention perspective, we are on a path to be as bad as last year. And that’s not just an Air Force problem, this is a national problem because COVID adds some additional stressors – a fear of the unknown for certain folks.”
Buchanan has a strong record of fighting for veterans and military families. He is a past recipient of the VFW Legislative Achievement Award. Last Congress, a Buchanan measure to reduce military training accidents following the death of Bradenton soldier Nicolas Panipinto was enacted into law. In 2015, Buchanan’s bill allowing all veterans in America to receive an official identification card, the Veterans ID Card Act was signed into law. Buchanan also introduced an amendment enacted in 2007 to study the feasibility of a standard soldier-patient tracking system.