House Passes Axne Mental Health Bill Named for Iowa Veteran
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to advance Rep. Cindy Axne’s (IA-03) bipartisan legislation to expand mental health care for rural veterans.
The Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans’ Mental Health Act, named in memory of Iowa veteran Brandon Ketchum, establishes new Rural Access Network for Growth Enhancement (RANGE) programs through the VA and supports additional research on rural veteran mental health care needs.
“I can think of no better way to honor the service and story of Iowa veteran Brandon Ketchum, just days before Memorial Day, than the House passing legislation named in his honor to secure better care for our veterans,” said Rep. Axne. “The care our veterans receive shouldn’t be determined by their zip code, but lack of adequate care in our rural areas can mean a veteran doesn’t get the support they need. This bill will expand mental health resources in our rural areas and ensure veterans like Sergeant Ketchum can get the care and support they’ve earned.”
Yesterday, Rep. Axne spoke in favor of the legislation on the House floor. You can watch those remarks HERE.
“Brandon asked for help but was turned away because of a lack of resources. We must make sure – in his memory and for the sake of others still serving — that when our soldiers return home, they can get the treatment they need.” said Rep. Axne in a speech before the U.S. House.
In April, Rep. Axne introduced the legislation in the House with the backing of the entire Iowa House delegation.
In 2016, Sgt. Brandon Ketchum of Davenport died by suicide after he was denied access to mental health services related to his battle with post-traumatic stress disorder at a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facility in Iowa.
According to the VA, at least one in five veterans return from combat with at least one serious mental health condition, yet 85% of rural residents live in a Mental Health Care Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA).
To address this, the VA developed RANGE programs, which provide a small team of specialists to meet the needs of rural veterans with serious mental health and daily living issues.
These programs are designed to support veterans who often are at high risk for housing insecurity and extensive inpatient hospitalization by integrating community, family, and financial resources in support of independent living.
In addition to establishing three new veteran mental health programs, the new legislation bill will direct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study how the VA can improve mental health care for rural veterans to enable better response in the future for veterans like Sgt. Ketchum who request treatment.
The bill was originally introduced with Reps. Ashley Hinson (IA-01), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02), Randy Feenstra (IA-04), Tim Ryan (OH-13), and Ed Case (HI-01).
Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), the leaders of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced Rep. Axne’s bill in the U.S. Senate earlier this month.
The legislation has been endorsed by The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Wounded Warrior Project, Military Veterans Advocacy, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Minority Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Fleet Reserve Association, Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs (NOVA), The Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action.