The U.S. Senate voted unanimously to approve bipartisan legislation to expand mental health care for rural veterans. The legislation now heads to the desk of President Biden for his signature. 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 Department of Veteran Affairs and supports additional research on rural veteran mental health care needs.
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).
“I can think of no better way to honor the memory and service of Iowa veteran Brandon Ketchum, who lost his own battle with PTSD after not getting the care he needed when he returned home, than Congress approving legislation named in his honor to secure better care for our veterans,” says Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, a lead sponsor of the bill. “When our veterans return home, the care they receive shouldn’t be determined by their zip code. The bipartisan legislation now headed to the President’s desk will help ensure veterans in our rural areas get the support they need.”
To address the growing number of mental health needs of returning veterans, 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. In addition to establishing three new veteran mental health programs, the new legislation bill will direct the Government Accountability Office 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.
Read more at FarmProgress.com.