13 News Now: Lawmakers introduce host of bills to help veterans, hopefully lower suicides

13 NEWS NOW, MIKE GOODING

More than 6,100 veterans died by suicide according to the most recent Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) report.

That’s the lowest it’s been since 2006.

Still, veteran advocacy groups have repeatedly said that one veteran’s suicide is one too many.

“It is a complex problem that needs a multi-faceted solution. We as a society need to do better,” said Tiffany Ellett, Director of Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation for The American Legion, testifying this week before the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

That panel this week is working its way through dozens of proposed bills.

One of them, the “Psychedelic Therapies to Save Lives Act of 2023,” would create a $75 million grant program to support research into therapeutic treatment for PTSD.

“Those who risked their lives in defense of our country deserve positive and fulfilling lives and the federal government has the responsibility of assisting them in their endeavors,” said Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Michigan).

Another group of veterans who need help is military firefighters.

The VA does not grant an automatic presumption of service-connected disability to military firefighter veterans suffering from a variety of cancers and does not cover treatment costs.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s (D-Virginia, 7th District) “Michael Lecik Military Firefighters Protection Act” would change that.

“Our bill would finally recognize the connection between the occupational hazards military firefighters face and these deadly diseases,” she said.

Rep. Jen Kiggans (R-Virginia, 2nd District) has introduced the “Caregiver Outreach and Program Enhancement (COPE) Act.” It would increase mental health resources for caregivers of America’s veterans.

In a news release, she said: “I introduced the COPE Act to enhance mental health resources for veteran caregivers. By ensuring these men and women can properly take care of themselves, this bill will improve the lives of our nation’s heroes and solidify the support system they need to age with dignity.”

All this legislative activity is taking place in June, which is Veteran Suicide and PTSD Awareness Month.

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