Today Congressman David Scott (GA-13) delivered the following remarks on the House Floor in a bipartisan effort to raise awareness for Veterans Suicide Prevention.
Click here to watch video of Congressman Scott’s remarks.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the Nation who are listening or watching us on C-SPAN, I want to impress that we have exactly, right now, 40,000 soldiers--veterans--who are committing suicide each year.
This is a national crisis, but it is more than that. It is a national tragedy. But it is more than that. It is an American national shame.
These soldiers go where they are commanded to go. They go into a hail of bullets. They go and they fight and they die. They leave an arm. They leave a leg. They leave so much of themselves on the battlefield. And so many leave their minds there because of the devastation. And when we bring them back home, the level of treatment that many of them are getting, and even not getting, is, again, a national tragedy and a national shame.
It is my hope and plea that America will hear this day from these Members of Congress and it will awaken us to what I believe is, and should be, the number one issue facing this Nation: take care of our veterans.
Twenty a day, 40,000 every year, is terrible.
Now, myself, what am I doing?
Each year, I put on a jobs fair. But I don't put on that jobs fair by myself. Partnering with me is the VA, where we have, in Atlanta, Georgia, at that convention and trades center, a jobs fair each year with the VA, and we are averaging about 450 jobs each year.
But we don't stop there. We have a health fair because it is the PTSD--post-traumatic stress syndrome--that is this archenemy that we are not examining. The reason for that is that there is a severe shortage of psychiatrists in the VA and there is a severe shortage of primary care physicians in the VA.
So right here in this legislature, my good Republican friend, Larry Bucshon from Indiana, and I--and he is a doctor--have worked together. We put together legislation 2 years ago, in 2015, for the special appropriations for veterans that we would pay the tuition, pay the loan forgiveness, for those physicians who are psychiatrists and who will go and work in the VA.
But we didn't stop there. Knowing how the various income levels are structured and the pay scales are structured according to where you live in the United States--and we have VA hospitals, VA centers all over this country, and the salary levels vary--we made sure that an added incentive would be to those graduating psychiatrists who will go and help our veterans and go help us fulfill this shortage, that we would make sure that their incoming salary would be at least 2 percent higher than that average.
My only heartbreak in all of this is that we were only able to get 12. And I can tell you how much that broke my heart by this Congress. But it is a start.
This bill will be replenished. And if you in the public can help us, if we want to do something right now about cutting down on the number of suicides that our veterans are having, help us get more psychiatrists into the VA system, help me and Larry Bucshon and many Democrats and Republicans who voted for the initial piece of legislation--we only got 12 the first time, but we should get 300, 400, 500. We should be willing to make that appropriation.
We can talk. We can sympathize. We can do all of that, but we need to get better treatment, psychiatric treatment, for our veterans. That will not happen, ladies and gentlemen, if we don't get more psychiatrists into the VA system.
So give Larry Bucshon from Indiana, my Republican friend, a call. My office, give me a call. But better than that, call your Congressman and say: Let's get this bill expanded so we can get more psychiatrists.
The Congress will move if the American people say move.
Now, finally, I must say this. There is no one that embodies the final words of Jesus Christ before he was crucified. Those final words that he spoke to his disciples 24 hours before he was crucified were: ``Love one another as I have loved you.''
And there is no greater love than that one who will lay down his life for his friend. That, ladies and gentlemen, is our veteran.”