Loebsack Introduces “Never Again” Legislation to Address Veteran Suicide Epidemic

Written by Theresa Rose on September 21, 2016

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack (IA-02) today introduced bipartisan legislation along with Congressman Steve Stivers (OH-15) to ensure no veteran seeking in-patient psychiatric care at a Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center is ever denied such care again. Earlier this summer, Sgt. Brandon Ketchum, a veteran from Davenport, Iowa, was turned away from a VA facility after seeking psychiatric help. After being denied care, he tragically took his own life. Sgt. Ketchum’s tragic death reinforced the need for a change at the VA to ensure any veteran who is suffering from a mental health issue gets the treatment they need and deserve. Simply put, under the Never Again Act, if a veteran asks for mental health care from the VA, they will get it.

 

“I introduced the Never Again Act to ensure that no veteran in crisis is ever turned away again. This legislation would require VA Medical Centers to provide psychiatric care for any veteran that asks for it,” said Loebsack. “After Sgt. Ketchum’s heartbreaking suicide, I met with various veterans, Veteran Service Organizations (VSO) and community members to develop this legislation. Our veterans have sacrificed too much to ever feel alone when struggling with mental health issues. When these veterans reach out, we as a country owe it to them to answer their call. I am proud to work with Congressman Stivers to ensure our veterans get the care they are seeking.”

 

“We face a devastating mental health crisis in this country – particularly in our veterans community – where people who seek help are often turned away,” Stivers said. “No veteran should ever be turned away when asking for in-patient psychiatric care, and I am proud to join Representative Loebsack in introducing this legislation to ensure our veterans receive the care they deserve.”

 

“Never Again Act” Background

The Never Again Act would require that when a veteran enrolled in the VA health care system requests at a VA Medical Center to be admitted for in-patient psychiatric care, the VA must provide that care for the veteran in the psychiatric ward of that Medical Center. If there are not enough beds or providers at that location, the VA must find care for the veteran at a non-VA facility. The bill would not prevent admissions as they currently operate – for example, if a veteran displays suicidal ideations but does not explicitly request to be admitted to the in-patient psychiatric ward, his or her doctor could still recommend admission – but rather would supplement existing policy.

 

The “Never Again Act” has been endorsed by the following organizations

AMVETS, American Legion, National Guard Association of the United States, Marine Corps Reserve Association, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Stop Soldier Suicide

 

Original cosponsors of the legislation

Steve Stivers (OH-15), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), Randy Weber (TX-14), Walter Jones (NC-03), Michael Honda (CA-17), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Charles Rangel (NY-13), José Serrano (NY-15), Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), Mike Thompson (CA-05), Tim Walz (MN-01), Tom Marino (PA-10), Jim Cooper (TN-05), Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Rod Blum (IA-01), Tom Rooney (FL-17), Grace Napolitano (CA-32).