In 2018, the average number of veteran suicides was 17.6 per day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. In November 2020, the VA released an updated report and found that number has not changed significantly.
In 2016, Sgt. Brandon Ketchum died by suicide after being denied access to mental health services at the VA facility in Iowa.
Last week, President Joe Biden signed the Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans’ Mental Health Act into law, a measure championed by Rep. Cindy Axne. It establishes new Rural Access Network and Growth Enhancement (RANGE) programs through the VA and supports additional research on the mental health care needs of rural veterans.
😄 Smile if you just helped expand mental health care for veterans in rural areas! 😀
— Rep. Cindy Axne (@RepCindyAxne) June 30, 2021
After he signed the bill, Biden called Ketchum’s mother to offer his condolences and thank her for her son’s service. Axne, Miller-Meeks and Hinson joined him on that call.
RANGE programs provide small teams of specialists to meet the needs of rural veterans because so many rural residents live in areas with mental health care shortages.
All four members of Iowa’s delegation to the House of Representatives signed onto the bill, and Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne introduced it on the floor. The legislation passed the House in May and was approved unanimously by the Senate last Thursday.
“Brandon asked for help but was turned away because of a lack of resources. We must make sure – in his memory and for the sake of others still serving — that when our soldiers return home, they can get the treatment they need,” Axne said before the bill was passed in the House.
“I can think of no better way to honor the memory and service of Iowa veteran Brandon Ketchum, who lost his own battle with PTSD after not getting the care he needed when he returned home, than Congress approving legislation named in his honor to secure better care for our veterans,” Axne said. “When our veterans return home, the care they receive shouldn’t be determined by their zip code.”
by Nikoel Hytrek