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Brindisi fights against veteran suicides with proposed bill

BINGHAMTON (WBNG) — Congressman Anthony Brindisi has proposed a bill aimed toward preventing veteran suicides. The bill would make more mental health resources available at VA clinics.

He visited the American Legion Post 1645 to talk about it on Friday.

“We’re losing 20 veterans a day to suicide, 14 of those 20 veterans don’t even come forward to access VA health services,” Brindisi said.

The Support for Suicide Prevention Coordinators Act wants to change those staggering numbers. Brindisi said if passed, the bill would conduct a study assessing mental health sources and suicide counselors in the VA system.

“First step is getting the legislation passed. We would like the study to be reported back within the year so we can finally start moving forward to hire more suicide counselors to assist our veterans,” Brindisi said.

Brindisi said the study will make sure there are enough mental health professionals and suicide counselors at VA systems. In addition, he plans to notify more veterans of existing resources.

“My concern is that they might not know where to go and who to call for help, although there are many veteran organizations around, some of them just don’t go and seek help,” Thomas Keenan, former commander of the American Legion Post 1645, said.

Keenan said he served for more than 30 years.

“We served and now it’s time for them to help us. I’m not looking for something that isn’t deserved,” Keenan said.

It’s something veterans call a ‘government necessity.’

“We have a lot of friends here, at our legion and around our community who do suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and have had suicidal thoughts in the past. Luckily, they’re all still with us and we’re able to get some level of help to get through this,” Jon Yeager, commander of the American Legion Post 1645, said.

Brindisi said there isn’t a proposed to go along with this bill yet.

“We shouldn’t have to put a cost on what it is to care for veterans to prevent veteran suicide,” Brindisi said.

He said part of the study will help determine how much funding is needed.

Brindisi said this is a bipartisan bill he worked on with Republican Congressmen Jim Banks of Indiana, and Mike Bost of Illinois.

Grace Gagnon

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