Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is on his way out as chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, but before he goes he intends to pass legislation to reduce veteran suicides, Stars and Stripes reports.
According to Sen. Sanders, approximately 22 veterans kill themselves every single day, an unacceptably high rate which needs to be brought down. His first recommendation is that the VA devote substantial resources to improving its healthcare system.
“Overall, I believe that the VA is doing a good job in providing mental health services for veterans, but we have to do better,” Sen. Sanders said in a statement.
But as far as the timeline of his legislation is concerned, Sanders will have to move quickly, as Republicans are set to take control of the Senate in January, at which point he will lose his chairmanship.
At a committee hearing last week, Valerie Pallotta, mother of Pfc. Joshua R. Pallottaa, spoke about her son’s suicide after he unsuccessfully tried to fight off a long bout of PTSD. One of the goals of the prospective legislation is to increase available health care for veterans from five to ten years once they’re out of the military.
The reason for the extension is that PTSD sometimes takes years to manifest when outside the battlefield and devastates families. Sen. Sanders also proposed alleviating medical school debt as an incentive to bring in more psychiatrists to the VA.
The VA has had their shares of death on their hands in the wake of scandal after scandal. Just this Tuesday, a veteran died at the Baltimore VA Medical Center after undergoing questioning by VA police officers. The details of the death are unclear, and so a full investigation has been ordered.
VA Spokeswoman Rosa Scalia confirmed that the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave.
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