Axne says the new teams created under the bill would be able to help veterans dealing with a variety of situations. “An HHS study found that 50% of returning vets who need mental health treatment, will receive it,” said Axne. “These mental health services are even harder to find in rural parts of our country like Iowa. My bill would increase the available mental health facilities in rural areas by establishing the new Rural Access Network for Growth Enhancement Programs, known by the acronym RANGE.” “RANGE programs provide rural veterans with mental illness access to a team of experts who can help them re-integrate into their community,” said Axne. “RANGE experts also can include existing family and financial resources to help with the recovery process. My bill will also study how the VA is currently meeting the needs of rural veterans with mental health issues and what resources may be needed to improve care, so that when veterans ask for treatment, they aren’t turned away.”
“Like so many of his fellow veterans, Sgt. Ketchum struggled with addiction, depression and PTSD related to his time in uniform,” said Axne. “When he sought in-patient hospitalization in 2016 from an Iowa VA, the treatment rooms were all full and he was denied in-patient treatment. Hours later, Sgt. Ketchum took his life.” Testifying before the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health, Axne says Ketchum struggled with mental health upon his return to civilian life.
The VA estimates that one in five veterans who return from combat have an least one serious mental health condition. The federal government also says that 85% of rural residents live in an area with a mental health care shortage. Axne says the bill would provide funding to address the shortage of mental health providers for veterans in rural areas. “Brandon was a Marine,” said Axne. “He served on two tours in Iraq and a tour in Afghanistan. While on his first tour in 2006, he helped clear 92 roadside bombs in seven months. That service earned him a combat action ribbon.”
Today, Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03) joined her colleagues on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Health to honor the memory and service of Sergeant Brandon Ketchum of Iowa with testimony on her bipartisan legislation named in his honor that would expand access to mental health care for rural veterans. Thank you for reading kmaland.com The legislation has the backing of numerous groups related to veterans and returning servicemembers. The full testimony from Axne can be found below.
“It’s so important that we work to ensure what happened to Sgt. Ketchum, never happens to another veteran,” said Axne. “Veterans put their lives on the line to serve our nation with honor, and when they come home, they should be able to receive the care that they need regardless of the zip code that they live in. We cannot allow stories like Brandon’s to be repeated. We must take action to address rural health shortages and mental health needs of our nation’s veterans.” The bill would provide $1.2 million in funding each year to support the three new teams within the VA. Axne says the country needs to do more to support the mental health of veterans returning home from combat.
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