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Sens. Baldwin, Sullivan Want VA To Do More Study On Vets Suicide

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alyssa M. Akers

Last week, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin, the Wisconsin Democrat, and Republican Dan Sullivan of Alaska, introduced the Veterans Overmedication and Suicide Prevention Act.

The legislation directs the VA to conduct an independent study on the deaths of all veterans being treated by the agency who died by suicide or from a drug overdose in the last five years.

Senator Baldwin says there are still too many veterans who die by suicide or drug overdoses.

Baldwin says more than 20 veterans a day are dying from suicide, which she says is an 'epidemic'... 

"Turning that around in a permanent way requires us to get the best research and understanding about the key causes of veterans suicide, including learning the extent of how overmedication of prescription drugs is contributing to suicide related deaths..."

Baldwin says she and the late Senator John McCain started working on the measure. She says Sullivan came on board to advance the bill...

"The idea is we need accurate information about the relationship between veterans suicides and prescription medication to enable the VA moving forward to continue to improve it's best practices and best treatment..."

In a September 2019 report released by the VA, the department confirmed that at least 60,000 veterans had died by suicide between 2008 and 2017. A scandal at the Tomah facility regarding over-medication of veterans sparked a nationwide review of VA practices.

In a May interview with WXPR, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilke said the situation at the Tomah facility had wide-reaching affects on the Veterans Administration. He said Tomah was the impetus for change in the ways the VA handles opioids. He said what the patients at Tomah were able to tell the country is immeasurable.

Wilke said they reduced opioid prescriptions by 51 percent and they were more frequently offering alternative therapies.

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