WASHINGTON, D.C. - As Congress learns more about the mental health challenges facing veterans and the rate of suicides by veterans, U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, is working with the Majority Leader and his other colleagues to bring S. 2162, the Veterans' Mental Health and Other Care Improvements Act of 2008, to the Senate floor.
"The sheer magnitude of mental health challenges facing veterans demonstrates the urgent need to improve VA's mental health system," said Akaka. "The Veterans' Mental Health and Other Care Improvements Act treats veterans' mental health care for what it is: a cost of war."
Today, Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake testified before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs on veteran suicides. Secretary Peake made the following points during his testimony:
As Chairman Akaka works with his colleagues to gain Senate action on S. 2162, new information continues to unfold on veterans' mental health issues, especially the need for suicide prevention. According to a recent RAND study, nearly one in five Iraq and Afghanistan veterans - roughly 300,000 - report symptoms of PTSD or major depression. Yesterday, Akaka met with Peake on the same matter, and discussed the need for improved mental health care.
S. 2162, introduced by Chairman Akaka, is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of Senators, including Veterans' Affairs Committee Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC). Among other provisions, the bill would: