09.11.20

Gardner Urges House Leadership to Quickly Pass Veteran Mental Health Legislation

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) joined a bipartisan group of 34 U.S. Senators in calling on Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to quickly bring S.785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, to the floor for immediate passage. The Senate unanimously passed this legislation on August 5.

“The social isolation and increased anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated many of the issues our veterans face,” the Senators wrote. “Our nation’s veterans and their families are waiting on Congress to take action to deliver these desperately needed resources. We must act now to provide this vital assistance to Americans who have sacrificed so much for our country and who deserve the best our nation has to offer. As such, we are seeking immediate passage of S. 785 when the U.S. House of Representatives reconvenes in September.”

In addition to Gardner, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Rob Portman (R-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), John Cornyn (R-TX), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mark Warner (D-IN), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Bob Casey (D-PA), Steve Daines (R-MT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), John Boozman (R-AR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jack Reed (D-RI), John Hoeven (R-ND), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jim Risch (R-ID), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Doug Jones (D-AL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN).

Gardner is leading efforts in the U.S. Senate to establish 9-8-8 as the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline, which would include the Veterans Crisis Line for veteran-specific mental health support. He introduced S. 2661, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, along with U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Jack Reed (D-RI). S. 2661 passed the U.S. Senate unanimously on May 13, 2020 and received an endorsement from every single Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioner. 

Yesterday, on World Suicide Prevention Day, he renewed his call for the U.S. House of Representatives to immediately take up and pass the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act to support critical suicide prevention measures and save lives.

The full text of the letter can be found here and below.

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy,

We write to request your immediate attention and passage of S.785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act. This bipartisan legislation, sponsored by fifty-four U.S. Senators was developed with and is supported by nearly forty veterans service organizations, mental health patient advocacy groups and entities who serve veterans in communities across the nation. Expressed support from these organizations is included in an addendum to this letter. S.785 received a unanimous 17-0 vote out of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and was recently passed by unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate.

This legislation is named for Commander John Scott Hannon, a decorated Navy SEAL veteran from Montana who lost his life to the invisible wounds of war in 2018. Sadly he is not alone, as many as 20 veterans die by suicide each day, and recent research has shown that for every one death by suicide, over 115 people are directly affected and negatively impacted. Suicide is a national tragedy and these deaths are preventable if the right care, services and supports are available for our nation’s veterans at-risk of suicide. S.785 puts in place the critical care, services and supports that will save veterans’ lives.

Approximately 14 out of the 20 veterans who die by suicide each day are not in the VA system. This legislation makes investments in veteran-serving community organizations across the nation to reach vulnerable veterans not currently connected to VA care to provide wrap-around suicide prevention services with the VA. Additionally, the bill establishes increased accountability over the Department’s mental health and suicide prevention programs, expands VA telehealth capabilities to better serve rural veterans, bolsters and expedites federal research capabilities, directs VA to embark on a precision medicine initiative that will improve how mental health conditions are diagnosed and treated, and makes necessary improvements to the VA mental health workforce.

The social isolation and increased anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated many of the issues our veterans face. Our nation’s veterans and their families are waiting on Congress to take action to deliver these desperately needed resources. We must act now to provide this vital assistance to Americans who have sacrificed so much for our country and who deserve the best our nation has to offer. As such, we are seeking immediate passage of S. 785 when the U.S. House of Representatives reconvenes in September.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent request and for ensuring our veterans and their families have the critical care and support they need.

###

Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.