MN06 Emmer TALKS about Veterans Suicide; Others offer Legislation

Politics 101 : Support the Vets

Prior to being elected to represent Minnesota’s Sixth District, Tom Emmer was a radio talk guy … and his September 29th tweet, sure sounded like a PSA (PSA is the radio term for Public Service Announcements which by Federal Communications Commission regulations instruct stations to allocate a certain amount of time as “public service” to “serve the community.”)

Congressman Emmer’s tweet seems like a last minute recognition that September was National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

Considering that each year more than 41,000 individuals die by suicide, it wasn’t a surprise to read an earlier September OpEd in The Hill by three Members of the House writing that “Congress must lead on suicide prevention”.

While these representatives want action … Tom Emmer is still in the talk mode.

Republican John Katko (NY-24) efforts are being promoted by the Ripon Society

Congressman Katko has established the new House Suicide Prevention Task Force which is part of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus (which Tom Emmer is not listed as participating.)

Congressman Emmer talks about veteran suicide … yet he is not listed as a member of the Congressional Military Mental Health Caucus.

OK … so maybe you don’t have to be a member of a caucus to support the cause … but how about legislation ?

For example, Congressman Katko has introduced HR 3032 the Mental Health Improvement Act, which would add licensed mental health counselors and relationship therapists to Medicare’s list of eligible service providers. The legislation has 23 bipartisan cosponsors (but not Tom Emmer.)

Congressman Emmer has only sponsored one bill related to the veterans suicide issue — H.R.874 — Sgt. Brandon Ketchum Never Again Act (legislation that was originally introduced September 21, 2016 but the Republican-controlled House has failed to allow a vote.)

There are a number of proposals which have a direct impact on veteran suicides that Congressman Emmer could have sponsored … such as HR 411 Veteran Suicide Prevention Act (74 sponsors) and HR2452 Deborah Sampson Act (42 sponsors).

Veteran Affairs studies report that ex-servicemen and women generally have a 20 percent higher suicide rate than civilians. Veteran Affairs Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin recently said “We know that of the 20 suicides a day that we reported last year, 14 are not under VA care. This is a national public health issue that requires a concerted, national approach.”

The VA reports that 113 Minnesota veterans committed suicide in 2014 (page 48)
Nationally, the rates of women vets committing suicide is a growing concern … something that the HR2452 Deborah Sampson Act would address.
(FYI : Deborah Sampson is a veteran of the Revolutionary War, and one of the first known women who fought in uniform for this country. Sampson disguised herself as a man and joined the Patriot forces and was the only woman to earn a military pension for her participation in the fight for American independence.)

The MN PoliticalRoundtable has noted before of Congressman Emmer’s penchant for evoking veterans issues here here here (and failing to push for meaningful legislation) … his latest tweet, although symbolically appropriate, smacks of playing Politics101.