Nomination of Vivek Hallegere Murthy to Be Medical Director in the Regular Corps of the Public Health Service, Subject to Qualifications Therefor as Provided By Law and Regulations, and to Be…by Former Senator John E. Walsh
Posted on 2014-12-15
WALSH. Mr. President, today the Senate had an opportunity to act
and pass important legislation that will continue to address the crisis
of veteran suicide. The numbers have been talked about. We are losing
22 servicemembers--veterans--each and every day across this country.
Thousands of men and women each year are dying by suicide. If we were
losing 22 of our servicemembers on the battlefield each and every day,
the citizens of this country would be up in arms. The Members of
Congress would be up in arms. We would be taking action to ensure that
we were doing something about it. I recall when this body did take
action, I was in Iraq, in Kuwait, getting ready to go across the
border. There was the Secretary of Defense at that time who came over
for a townhall meeting, and we talked about how poor the equipment was
that our Reserve component members were being given to go across the
border from Kuwait to Iraq. Shortly after that time, the Reserve
component started to receive up-armored Humvees. The action this body
took made a difference. Once the Reserve components started to receive
up-armored Humvees--the same type of Humvee our Active-Duty
counterparts are receiving--it did make a difference.
This body has an opportunity to take action. We have put over a million men and women into the VA health care system over the past 13 years, and we have not provided the resources our men and women in the VA need to take care of these men and women who have been put into the VA health care system.
When we talked about the fact that the VA health care system needs to do a better job, think about us not providing them with the resources they need to do their job. That is what this body is being asked to do--to provide the VA health care system with the resources and provide additional psychological health care providers in VAs all across our country so that the men and women who are coming back with psychological wounds of war can be dealt with.
When I introduced the first version of this important legislation back in March, I committed to use my time in office to bring attention to this issue. I thank all the Members of this body who have stood up and all the organizations that have come together and realized we have a problem. There are 22 men and women each and every day dying by suicide. We need to do something. We have done some things, but it is not enough.
It is a terrible disservice to millions of veterans and their families that this important bill has been blocked from passing because we are not doing everything we can do. Congress can't just thank our veterans. We hear each and every day on this floor and in the House how much we appreciate our veterans and how much we appreciate the men and women who are willing to sign on the dotted line, how much we appreciate their families for the sacrifice they make each and every day while our men and women are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Our men and women who serve in the Armed Forces are willing to put their lives on the line for our freedoms and the things we enjoy each and every day across this country. We need to do more than provide lipservice from this Chamber about taking care of our men and women who sign and are willing to give their lives for this country and for those who have given their lives for this country.
As somebody who has seen the invisible wounds of war in the men and women under my command, I am deeply disappointed today that we haven't been able to pass this legislation and begin taking action to help our men and women who are contemplating dying by suicide.
One of the pieces of this legislation--right now when a young man or woman comes home, he or she can go to the VA, and they are taken care of for up to 5 years. Sometimes the wounds of PTSD or traumatic brain injury take longer than 5 years to surface. We need to continue to provide that service for up to 10 years or, in my opinion, for as long as these men and women are around and still living. Again, they were willing to put their lives on the line for this country. We need to be willing to take care of them for the rest of their lives, for those who were fortunate enough to come home from serving our country.
I am glad to see that Senator Blumenthal will be around for the next Congress because I know he and other Members of this body will continue to fight to make sure our men [[Page S6854]] and women who served our country and who are suffering from the visible and invisible wounds of war will have someone here to fight for them because I know they will continue to carry on this message.
I yield the floor.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Ohio.