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Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

JOSHUA OMVIG VETERANS SUICIDE PREVENTION ACT -- (House of Representatives - October 23, 2007)


Ms. BERKLEY. I thank the chairman of the VA Committee for yielding me this time.

I rise in strong support of H.R. 327, the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act. I listened to what Mr. Boswell had to say. He is the prime sponsor of the bill. I heard him in committee and I heard him again on the floor, and I appreciate so much the fact that he has brought this to Congress' attention. And a special thank you to Joshua's family and his parents. I am not sure if my child had committed suicide after his service in Iraq that I would have the strength to not only go on as they have, but to try to bring PTSD to the attention of the American people and actually do something about it.

I want to share why this is important to me and why I am supporting this bill. More than 1,600 Nevada veterans have returned from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of these brave men and women suffer from PTSD. Nationally, one in five veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from PTSD; 35 percent have been diagnosed with some sort of mental disorder. It is vital that our veterans receive the help they need to deal with this condition.

A few years ago a constituent of mine, Lance Corporal Justin Bailey, returned from Iraq with some physical injuries as well as a diagnosis of PTSD. He struggled with addiction to legal prescription and illegal drugs. After consultation with his parents, he checked himself into the West L.A. VA facility where he was given five additional prescription drugs, including methadone, without proper oversight. The next day, the man was dead.

I can't understand, it is incomprehensible to me why a facility would give anyone with a substance abuse problem a 30-day supply of medication unsupervised under a self-medication policy. This devastating loss of life could have been and should have been prevented. This is a systemic problem in our VA system, and that's why this issue needs immediate attention.

One other quick story, if you can call it a story. About a month ago I called a grandmother in Pahrump, Nevada. It is a small town outside of Las Vegas. Her grandson lived with her. He came home from his first tour of duty in Iraq, and he was messed up mentally. He was suffering from PTSD. It was apparent to anybody who spoke to him. He didn't want to go back. He felt he couldn't handle it. He was emotionally and physically drained, and he begged not to go back.

So the military's response was they gave him Prozac because he was depressed and they sent him back to the front lines in Iraq. The day he got back to Iraq, he blew his brains out. That is a very difficult thing to come to grips with if you are the grandmother of a grandson who begged you not to let him go back to Iraq.

We have problems with PTSD. It is imperative that we provide adequate mental health services for those who have and are currently sacrificing for our great Nation. This bill takes a step in the right direction in providing our veterans with the health care they have earned.


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