New Law Expands Mental Health Resources for Underserved Rural Veterans

Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act - American Veterans Honor Fund

Sgt. Brandon Ketchum was a decorated Marine Veteran of the Global War on Terror.

In 2006, he received the Combat Action Ribbon for clearing 92 roadside bombs in Iraq in just 7 months.

Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act - American Veterans Honor Fund

As a civilian, he was an advocate who travelled giving talks on Veterans mental health. An issue he was intimately familiar with.

And on May 27, 2016, retired Sgt. Brandon Ketchum sought emergency inpatient psychiatric care at a local Iowa VA hospital.

He had struggled with PTSD, depression, and substance abuse for years following his three deployments-two tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan.

He was denied treatment due to lack of resources. He then took his own life.

Sadly, the tragic denial of service and lack of essential care is an injustice that has been done to Veterans across our country for years. Our nation has asked these brave men and women to make the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our nation, and this has often been their reward.

This is what makes a recent bi-partisan bill named in honor of Sgt. Ketchum so important.

Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act of 2021

On June 30th, President Joe Biden signed the Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act of 2021.

As noted by The Daily Iowan, the bill was  “co-sponsored by three Republicans — Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Rep. Ashley Hinson, Rep. Randy Feenstra – and Democrat Rep. Cindy Axne.”

The bill achieves the following for American Veterans:

To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to expand the Rural Access Network for Growth Enhancement Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and to direct the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct a study to assess certain mental health care resources of the Department of Veterans Affairs available to veterans who live in rural areas.

This important bill will increase access to life saving mental health resources in the rural areas of the country which suffer the most from a lack of access to care.

In addition, the bill requires a report due no later than 18 months of the law’s passage which is to examine the following:

  • The demand by rural Veterans for mental health resources
  • To determine whether the parameters of this legislation meets that demand
  • How to best expand and appropriately allocate resources to these areas
  • To determine how many Veterans died by suicide or overdose while on wait lists & during the span of this study

The Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act is an important and essential step in the right direction for the medical care of our Veterans once they have returned to civilian life. No Veteran should have to struggle to find proper mental health treatment period. But to have even fewer options because of geography is inexcusable.

This legislation is also an important reminder of what our government can and should accomplish in a bi-partisan manner on issues that affect American Veterans. The treatment of our Veterans is an issue which brings all Americans together on common ground. Removing barriers and obstacles to ensure their care is something that can bring our divided nation together.

Image Credit: Photo by Iiona Virgin on Unsplash

Between 2005 and 2017, the average number of daily Vet suicides rose from 15.9 per day to 16.8. When adjusted for population differences for age and sex, a study concluded that Veterans are 1.5 times more likely to commit suicide than their counterparts who have never served in the military. But what is driving our Warriors to such unimaginable depths of despair and what can we do to help them?

Veterans Running for Office - American Veterans Honor Fund

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