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Monday, July 17, 2006

Action Item: HR 5771, Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act

Last week, important legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. Leonard Boswell [D-IA] that we really need to rally around and support. Called the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act, HR 5771 is named after the 22-year old Army Reserve soldier who killed himself three days before Christmas shortly after returning home from combat duty in Iraq. The bill charges the VA with setting up a program to screen and monitor for suicide risk.

The Omvig family have been outspoken advocates for our returning troops in the wake of their loss. General Wes Clark recently spoke in Iowa in support of this legislation. They need our help. Please contact your Congressperson and let them know you support this bill and expect them to do the same.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

From the Des Moines Register:

Boswell, a Vietnam veteran, said he is very disturbed by the number of young veterans taking their own lives. Aides to Boswell said that since March 2003, 79 vets who served in Iraq or Afghanistan have committed suicide. “One life lost to suicide is too many,” said Boswell. Boswell aides said he picked up 25 co-sponsors in the House as soon as he introduced the bill, including Rep. Jim Leach, an Iowa City Republican.

Under the legislation, the Department of Veterans Affairs would have to:

  • Establish a tracking and counseling referral system to make sure that vets at risk of suicide receive care
  • Provide education and training for VA staff members, contractors and health professionals who work with vets
  • Provide around-the-clock mental health care for veterans found at risk of suicide
Press release:

Boswell Briefing...
By Congressman Leonard Boswell

Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act
--------------------------------------------------

"As a fellow veteran, I am honored to announce I recently introduced the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act."

It is estimated almost 1,000 veterans receiving care from Department of Veterans Affairs commit suicide each year. Since March 2003, 79 individuals, having served in Iraq or Afghanistan, have committed suicide. I am extremely troubled these men and women did not receive the proper attention they needed. Suicide rates for soldiers in Iraq are higher than the suicide rates during the Gulf War or the Vietnam War.

As a fellow veteran, I am honored to announce I recently introduced the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act. If enacted, this legislation would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop a comprehensive program to regularly screen and monitor all veterans for risk factors of suicide.

This bill would also set up a tracking and counseling referral system to ensure all veterans deemed a suicide risk would receive the appropriate help. In addition, this legislation would provide 24-hour mental health care for veterans who are found to be at risk for suicide and would provide education and training for all VA staff, contractors, and medical personnel who have interaction with veterans.

This legislation grew out of the tragic death of Joshua Omvig from Grundy Center, Iowa who took his life after returning home from an 11-month tour in Iraq. Not all wounds inflected in combat are visible. A simple screening and tracking process could have provided Joshua with the counseling he needed, saving his life. We must now protect those who have kept us safe for so long.

Our men and women in uniform and their families have made many sacrifices for our country, and we must ensure they receive the proper care and treatment once they return home.

As a Vietnam Veteran, I honor the men and women currently serving our nation around the world. During the upcoming months of the 109th Congress, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure all veterans are given the proper care they need. For more information on suicide prevention please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s website at www.suicidepreventioinlifeline.org. If you or someone you know are in a crisis please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Please visit the Joshua Omvig memorial page for more information. Created on January 7th by his family, this website offers links to information and action items, an online photo album, a place to leave condolences, and an invitation to 'light' a memorial candle.


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