Mr. ISRAEL. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support the bipartisan conference agreement for the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013. The conference report authorizes critical resources for our men and women in uniform and the defense of the American people. While I do not agree with every provision in this bill, I'd like to commend the conference committee for including in its report the Israel King amendment which was passed in the House in May 2012.
This bipartisan amendment would improve the coordination of research, treatment, education, and outreach of mental health, substance use disorders, and traumatic brain injury (TBI) among members of the National Guard, Reserve and their families. All Americans have a moral obligation to provide the best care possible to our veterans when they return home after so bravely serving their country.
Mental health and substance use disorders and TBI affect nearly 20% of all the service members who have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Even more disturbing is that an American veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes. This is unacceptable. We must act now to ensure our veterans have the support services and access to care that they deserve.
While many active duty service members return from deployments to military bases and have access to quality mental health services, members of the National Guard and Reserve often return from a tour of duty and transition into civilian life far from military bases and without easy access to the care they need. Members of the National Guard and Reserve who have mental health, substance use disorders, or TBI are more likely to have a difficult time transitioning back into family life and their careers.
And those who do seek care in their community may not always receive the most appropriate and effective treatment options. This amendment would allow the Department of Defense to carry out a pilot program with public-private partnerships based on a competitive, merit-based grant process. We have learned that the government cannot meet the needs of our veterans alone. That is why these innovative partnerships are so critical.
Again, I thank the conference committee for including this important amendment in the final bill. American veterans and their families have already sacrificed so much for our country. I encourage all Members to support this critical care for our veterans which they not only need but deserve. We owe them nothing less.