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May-16-2014 23:52printcomments

Rising Tide of Veteran Suicides Concerns Oregon Senator

Senator Merkley Marks Military Appreciation Month by Co-Sponsoring Legislation to Prevent Suicide Among Veterans

Veteran suicides
Left to Right: Dwight Holton, CEO of Lines for Life; Senator Jeff Merkley; Diane McKeel, Multnomah County Commissioner.

(PORTLAND, Ore.) - Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley visited Lines for Life on Friday to see its military helpline in action and met with veterans and veteran advocates to discuss how to stem the rising tide of suicide among veterans.

Senator Merkley also discussed legislation that he is supporting called the Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans (SAV) Act that would help shine a light on this issue and provide resources to prevent suicide among veterans.

“Too many of our men and women in uniform are coming home from battle with less visible wounds – PTSD, traumatic brain injury and depression. But we’re not making the same kind of commitment to treating those wounds of war,” said Merkley.

“We must do more and that’s why I’m supporting this legislation to provide more support and services to our veterans.”

The SAV Act expands mental health services for veterans, as well as improves the quality of care available. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that more than 22 veterans die by suicide each day. A recent study by the Oregon Health Authority reported that suicide is the leading cause of death among veterans under 45 years of age.

"Our vets have always been there for us in our times of need - now we need to make sure we are there for them,” said Dwight Holton, CEO of Lines for Life. “Senator Merkley's sponsorship of the SAV Act sends a clear message: 'I'm there for Oregon vets and their families.'"

The Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act will:

  • Extend Special Combat Eligibility from 5 to 15 years, providing access to care to troops and veterans for 10 additional years.
  • Review Wrongful Discharges. An unknown numbers of troops who struggle with mental health issues have been discharged for behavior often caused by invisible injuries. This legislation sets up a review process for potentially wrongful discharges.
  • Increase the Number of Mental Health Care Professionals at the VA. This legislation increases the VA’s capacity to meet demands for mental health care professionals by repaying medical school loans for psychiatrists who commit to long-term service in the VA.
  • Improve Mental Health Care and Suicide Prevention Programs. Under this bill, an annual review will be conducted of care programs within DOD and the VA to ensure resources are effectively combatting the problem of veteran suicide.
  • Ensure Training for Mental Health Care Providers. The VA and DOD will be required to ensure mental health care providers have special training to identify veterans at-risk for suicide.
  • Create Greater Collaboration Between the VA and DOD, providing continuous and seamless care to veterans by putting a timeline on the National Defense Authorization Act mandate to make all DOD and VA records electronic.
  • Establish a Common Drug Formulary Between DOD and the VA. The SAV Act requires DOD and the VA to adopt the same drug formulary for prescription medication to ensure seamless care.

Source: Office of Senator Jeff Merkley


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Rae Dickey May 27, 2014 11:52 am (Pacific time)

Senator I wish that you would address the fact that in Oregon on Memorial Day our Governor HAS to ORDER the flags at half mass or the STATE AGENCIES will NOT lower them According to the proper United States of America proper flag flying etiquette ( §6. Time and occasions for display It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness. The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously. The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, except when an all-weather flag is displayed. The flag should be displayed on all days, especially on New Year's Day, January 1 Inauguration Day, January 20 Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, third Monday in January Lincoln's Birthday, February 12 Washington's Birthday, third Monday in February Easter Sunday (variable) Mother's Day, second Sunday in May Armed Forces Day, third Saturday in May Memorial Day (half-staff until noon), the last Monday in May Flag Day, June 14 Father's Day, third Sunday in June Independence Day, July 4 Labor Day, first Monday in September Constitution Day, September 17 Columbus Day, second Monday in October Navy Day, October 27 Veterans Day, November 11 Thanksgiving Day, fourth Thursday in November Christmas Day, December 25 and such other days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States the birthdays of States (date of admission) and on State holidays. The flag should be displayed daily on or near the main administration building of every public institution. The flag should be displayed in or near every polling place on election days. The flag should be displayed during school days in or near every schoolhouse) I am married to a Wounded Warrior,a Veteran and a Corrections Officer for the State of Oregon. Not only was he insulted by this but it was completely disrespectful to not only him but EVERY FALLEN SOLIDER that has served this country. In my opinion the US Governments flag etiquette far outreaches a Governors especially when it comes to respecting those that GAVE ALL FOR OUR FREEDOM INCLUDING OREGONS. as far as your Extend Special Combat Eligibility I like that but in all reality it should be lifetime care PTSD doesn't just end after so many years and those memories do not fade away they only get to be bearable for some. Thank you for reading this in it's entirey

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