Today, Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Mich.), the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, released the following statements after the amendment they offered to add the Improve Well-Being for Veterans Act to H.R. 6395, the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, was ruled out of order by the Rules Committee.
"Dr. Roe, myself, and more than 250 U.S. Representatives agree: Congress should pass the Veteran Suicide prevention grants outlined in the Improve Act," said Rep. Bergman. "Nevertheless, our legislation to reach out into the community and connect at-risk veterans to lifesaving services has faced multiple partisan roadblocks -- including today when House Democrats, who cosponsored this policy, blocked its advance as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) bill. One of the most important roles of Congress is to provide for our national defense; and with that comes the responsibility to ensure the men and women we ask to protect us can access the supportive resources they need when they return from the fight. According to VA, 11 of the 17 veterans who take their own lives each day are not within the VA system of care. These grim statistics haven't budged in years -- which makes new solutions like the Improve Act more urgently needed than ever."
"I am deeply disappointed that General Bergman's and my amendment to support veterans at-risk of suicide was ruled out of order by the Rules Committee today," said Ranking Member Roe. "I have served on the Veterans' Affairs Committee for more than a decade and, in that time, have watched the veteran suicide rate remain tragically stable despite skyrocketing mental health funding and staff increases. In order to find the lost and save their lives, we must pay more than lip service to those in crisis. Despite repeated claims that suicide prevention is the Committee's highest priority, almost an entire Congress has passed us by without meaningful legislation to address the epidemic of veteran suicide brought to the House Floor for a vote. The Improve Act is a bipartisan bill that will make a real difference in communities across America where struggling veterans and their families who need our help now more than ever reside. It is past time to put politics aside and veterans first and it is shameful that House Democrats failed to do that today."
To read the amendment the Members offered, click here.
To learn more about the Improve Act, as introduced, click here.