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Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HOLT. I thank the gentleman, and I appreciate that this bipartisan amendment offered by my colleague Representative Runyan of New Jersey has been accepted by the majority, and I thank Chair Culberson and Ranking Member Bishop and their staffs for making this possible.

As you may know, Mr. Chairman, last month the Federal Ninth Circuit Court sided with two veterans groups that sued the Department of Veterans Affairs for failing to provide timely care to veterans at risk of suicide. The court noted that on average, 18 veterans per day take their own lives. I'll repeat. On average, 18 veterans per day take their own lives. We must end this suicide epidemic.

This amendment is one important step in that process. Our amendment is simple. It fences $20 million of the billion dollars in advance funding for the VA for fiscal years 2013 and 2014 and dedicates these funds to suicide prevention outreach. Specifically, our intention is to use television ads and social media. We know that when veterans are made aware of the national suicide prevention number, which is 1-800-273-TALK, they use it. And lives are saved. 1-800-273-TALK. Indeed, in the State of New Jersey, we have our own veteran counseling hotline, the Vet-to-Vet Program run by the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey.

Since it went live a half dozen years ago, no New Jersey Guard member who has used its services has taken his or her own life. It is a successful program. We want to see this expanded. When we get the word out about these counseling services, we save lives. It's past time that we push the VA to do the advertising and the outreach that's necessary to reach the people who need it.

This amendment is budget neutral, it's vitally needed, and I thank my colleagues for carrying it forward.


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