The House Appropriations Committee met April 20, 2014 to discuss two fiscal bills which would provide funding to Veterans for the 2015 Fiscal Year. One of those bills,the“Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015” (H.R. 4486) gained a lot of attention on the House floor, with the topic of Veterans mental health as a main concern. H.R. 4486 includes a proposed $20 million increase for suicide prevention and outreach.
Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ)spoke on behalf of the bill speaking specifically on suicide prevention among our Veterans. He began by applauding his fellow Representatives for the $120 million budget increase that suicide prevention has received since 2012 but emphasized that more is needed, urging his colleagues that “work on this issue is far from over.”
Representative Holt is in support of the additional $20 million in funding for suicide prevention and outreach proposed in H.R. 4486. He mentioned the increase in suicides among Veterans over the past few years, referencing an article from The Washington Post which claims the number of Veteran deaths by suicide was 18 a day back in 2007 and has risen to 22 a day in 2014. Using these statistics, Rep. Holturged his fellow Representatives to approve the proposed $20 million increase saying,“I have no doubt that everyone in this committee is committed to reversing this tragic trend” and reminding his colleagues of the importance of suicide prevention and outreach among our nations Veterans.
Representative Holt concluded with a brief mention of his hope that “Congress will authorize a permanent increase in funds to suicide prevention and mental health so that appeals won’t be necessary in the future.” Support from Representative Holt and the colleagues he mentioned- Representatives Runyan(R-NJ), Bishop (R-UT), Rogers (R-MI), and Lowey(D-NY)is imperative to the continued growth of mental health awareness and mental health parity.