Our brave service men and women put their lives on the line to protect our country and our freedom. Sadly, they often return home from war different— physically, mentally, or both— than how they left.
As a veteran, I understand how difficult it can be to return home from the battlefield with both visible and invisible wounds. I also know the pain of watching a fellow soldier lose their fight against post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
I have personally experienced PTSD and understand the needs our veterans require to return to a life of some normalcy.
I know I’m not alone. No one wants to receive a phone call informing you that you’ve lost a brother or sister to suicide.
But right now, veteran suicide is at an all-time high in America with an average of 22 veterans committing suicide every day despite the billions being thrown at the problem and getting the same results or worse. In fact, veteran suicide made up about 14 percent of total suicides in America in 2018. Not to mention, we’ve lost more active service members and veterans to suicide than soldiers in Afghanistan in recent years.
From April to June 2020, 128 deaths by suicide were recorded by the U.S. military. During that same period in 2019, 115 active service members lost their lives to suicide. That’s an 11.3% increase.
It’s time to do something different. Congress has a responsibility to these brave men and women to find solutions to alleviate the trauma caused by PTSD— and that means investing in research and treatment that works.
Each and every one of our veterans should be offered a full menu of options and treatment that is tailored to them. Whether that’s counseling, service dogs or medication, they should have every option at their fingertips to help them on the path to healing.
We can’t stand by as our brothers and sisters take their own lives. It’s on us to act.
As one of our most trusted allies, Israel is an ideal partner on our journey to improving veteran health. Israel has a combat-tested military, in part a result of a mandatory military service requirement for citizens over the age of 18. Just like the U.S., Israel continues to struggle with suicide among soldiers as it remains the leading cause of death among service members to date. Not to mention the negative effects we have yet seen on suicide rates from the coronavirus and isolation that went along with it.
It’s really a no brainer to leverage the long-lasting partnership between Israel and the U.S. to ultimately save veteran lives. That’s why I’m proud to sponsor the bipartisan United States-Israel PTSD Collaborative Research Act with Congresswoman Elaine Luria (D-VA) to leverage research assets and experiences of the U.S. and Israel to develop best practices in the research, diagnosis and treatment of PTSD. As partners on the battlefield, we must be partners in finding solutions for our veterans.
Every soldier we lose at home is a reminder that we must invest in veteran health resources and research. Just like on the battlefield, no one should be left behind.
• U.S. Representative Michael Waltz, Florida Republican, represents the Sixth Congressional District. He is a member of the Armed Services Committee, a Green Beret veteran of the war on terror in Afghanistan, a former White House counterterrorism policy adviser, and author of the book “Warrior Diplomat: a Green Beret’s Battles from Washington to Afghanistan”.
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