Rooney Caps Off 10 Year Fight Against Veteran Suicide
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Rooney (FL-17) issued the following statement on the House’s passage of H.R. 5895, the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act of 2019:
“Answering the call and volunteering to serve our country is one of the greatest challenges any American can possibly undertake,” Rooney said. “But the reality is our servicemembers require support as they deal with trauma – both mental and physical – resulting from their service. Over my last 10 years in Congress, I’ve heard their stories time and time again. These war fighters face insurmountable issues, too often ending in suicide. Mental health is an issue rarely discussed but an issue with a significant impact on the lives of our veterans and their families.
“Traumatic brain injury increases the risk of depression and suicide. For our military, it starts with one concussion – then two, then three, then too many to count. Each blast creates another injury and the likelihood of depression and suicide just increases and increases over time. Our veterans should know their problems are both serious and real – and we in Congress stand ready to help,” Rooney said.
The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill provides $8.6 billion in mental health care services, including $196 million in suicide prevention outreach activities, $589 million for traumatic brain injury treatment, and $387 million for opioid abuse prevention.
The bill also provides over $71 billion for the VA’s medical care account, fully funding the programs that our veterans rely on.
The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act of 2019 section of H.R. 5895:
- Supports mental health and addiction recovery: Provides $8.6 billion in mental health care services, including $196 million in suicide prevention outreach activities, $589 million for traumatic brain injury treatment, and $387 million for opioid abuse prevention. Furthermore, it directs the VA to continue exploring alternative and complementary treatments to reduce veteran reliance on opioids.
- Improves treatment for rural veterans: Provides $270 million for the Office of Rural Health which helps identify barriers to healthcare delivery in rural areas, like Florida’s Heartland, and helps implement new ways to deliver treatment to veterans in these areas. The bill also directs the VA to continue working with partners to expand telehealth services in these rural areas.
- Improves the appeals process: Provides nearly $175 million to the Veterans Benefit Administration to continue work to alleviate the appeals backlog. The bill also includes Rooney-requested language directing the Secretary to study the feasibility of allowing veterans in rural areas to use teleconferencing equipment in their homes to conduct VA appeals.
- Supports innovative treatment and research: Includes Rooney-requested language directing the VA to continue developing partnerships with premier cancer centers, like Moffit Cancer Center, to increase veterans’ access to innovative treatments and improve its own ability to undertake clinical trials.