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Loebsack to Address veteran suicide epidemic

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017 11:22 a.m. CDT

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Congressman Steve Stivers (OH-15) today reintroduced bipartisan legislation to ensure no veteran seeking in-patient psychiatric care at a Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center is ever denied such care again. Last year, 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 reinforces 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 Sgt. Brandon Ketchum Never Again Act, if a veteran asks for mental health care from the VA, they will get it.

“I am proud to reintroduce the Sgt. Brandon Ketchum Never Again Act to ensure no veteran in crisis is ever turned away. This legislation would require VA Medical Centers to provide psychiatric care for any veteran that asks for it,” said Loebsack. “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 help honor Sgt. Ketchum’s life by working to ensure our veterans get the care they are seeking.”

“We face a devastating mental health crisis in this country, one that has particularly affected our veteran’s community,” Stivers said. “We owe it to our veterans to ensure they receive the care they need when they return home. I am proud to join Representative Loebsack in re-introducing this legislation because no veteran should ever be turned away when asking for in-patient psychiatric care.”

“Sgt. Brandon Ketchum Never Again Act” Background

The Sgt. Brandon Ketchum 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 “Sgt. Brandon Ketchum Never Again Act” has been endorsed by the following organizations:

Military Order of the Purple Heart, Stop Soldier Suicide, National Guard Association of the United States, Association of the United States Navy, and the American Legion

Original cosponsors of the legislation

Cheri Bustos (IL-17), John Lewis (GA-05), Tim Ryan (OH-13), Robin Kelly (IL-02), Randy Weber (TX-14), Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02), Jim Himes (CT-04), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Lou Barletta (PA-11), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Dan Lipinski (IL-03), Beto O’Rourke (TX-16), Michael McCaul (TX-10), Thomas Rooney (FL-17), Mike Quigley (IL-05), Pete Olson (TX-22), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), John Delaney (MD-6), John Garamendi (CA-03), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (Northern Mariana Islands), Carlos Cubelo (FL-26), Louise Slaughter (NY-25), Walter Jones (NC-03), Jim Cooper (TN-05), Pete Sessions (TX-32), Jeff Denham (CA-10), Bob Gibbs (OH-18), Don Young (AK-At Large), Tony Cardenas (CA-29), David Valadao (CA-21), Peter King (NY-02), Erik Paulsen (MN-03), Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (American Samoa Islands), Filemon Vela (TX-34), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), Darren Soto (FL-09), Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), Steve Stivers (OH-15), Tom Emmer (MN-06), Bob Goodlatte (VA-06)

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