Supporting veterans’ mental health needs

This month’s virtual and socially distanced Veterans Day celebrations around Ohio serve as a reminder not only of the sacrifices veterans make for our country, but also of our collective responsibility to support those returning home from service.

After an election season that divided communities and even families, Veterans Day is also a time for us to come together as Americans. On the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, we have a proud tradition of bipartisanship, and this year has been no exception.

Over the course of the year, I have introduced bipartisan legislation to serve those who have served us, including bills to improve the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) debt management practices and provide consumer protections for Ohio veterans, to expand the list of medical conditions for veterans exposed to Agent Orange, and to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.

And this month, I’m introducing a bill to address the lack of mental health support for vets returning home.

This legislation would add a new component to the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) specifically designed to talk with servicemembers about their mental health and how it could be affected during transition, and make them aware of services available to them at their local VA.

We know returning servicemembers often face “invisible injuries,” like Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) and other mental health challenges, and that too many of them end in tragedy. More than 6,000 veterans take their own lives each year. That’s unacceptable. We need to require the VA to take proactive measures to address mental health issues faced by returning servicemembers, and reach veterans at the highest risk before they end up in crisis.

Servicemembers and veterans have already sacrificed so much, and shouldn’t have to worry about where and how to find the VA services and support they need when dealing with mental health issues.

I hope this winter we can work together, put partisanship aside, and get to work for the veterans we serve.

As the longest-serving U.S. Senator from Ohio on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, advocating on behalf of veterans across Ohio and across the country is one of the most important parts of my job. My staff and I stand ready to serve all Ohio veterans who ever need assistance.