With 20 veterans killing themselves each day, a Florida congressman has thrown his support to a bill studying the link between painkillers and veteran suicides.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., announced on Monday that he was supporting U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman’s, R-Col., “Veterans Overmedication Prevention Act.” The bill directs the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to study the deaths of every veteran who committed suicide or died by overdosing in the last five years. The legislation would also make the VA examine “any medications that carried a black box warning, were prescribed for off-label use, were psychotropic, or carried warnings that include suicidal ideation.”
Buchanan weighed in on Monday why he was backing the bill. His office noted on Monday that 20 percent of all suicides in the US are committed by veterans and noted the continued opioid problems plaguing the Sunshine State.
“The high rates of suicide and drug overdose deaths in the veteran community are unacceptable,” Buchanan said. “This legislation is critical to learning if prescription drugs, specifically opioid painkillers, are a contributing factor in suicide-related deaths among veterans.”
Buchanan is the first cosponsor of the bill from Florida. So far, more than a dozen other members of Congress are cosponsoring the bill including Republican U.S. Reps. Jack Bergman of Michigan and Mike Bost of Illinois and Democrats U.S. Reps. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Beto O’Rourke of Texas. Moulton is the main cosponsor.
“Today an average of 20 veterans die every day from suicide, this is unacceptable,” Coffman said when he brought the bill out at the end of May. “This bill will enable us to better identify the links between prescription drugs overdoses and veterans’ suicide. The VA’s drug-centric culture is not only something we are looking to change, but also we seek to better understand this growing epidemic of opioid use. Our goal is to ultimately avoid veterans’ and their families’ unnecessary suffering.”
“Our veterans deserve the best health-care in the world – period,” Moulton said. “This bill will help us tackle the overmedication of veterans and help prevent veteran suicides. Opioid addiction is something that affects many communities, and unfortunately the veteran community is impacted in disproportionate ways. I am proud to lead on this bipartisan effort to help get those who served our country what they earned and what they deserve.”
The bill is currently before the U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health.
Over in the Senate, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., sponsored a similar bill.
“I thank Representatives Coffman and Moulton for introducing this bipartisan companion legislation in the House of Representatives to address the scandal of veterans’ suicide, which claims the lives of 20 veterans each day,” McCain said when the bill was unveiled in the House. “Combating this epidemic will require the best research and understanding about the key causes of veteran suicide, including whether overmedication of drugs, such as opioid painkillers, is a contributing factor in suicide-related deaths. We have a long way to go to eradicate veteran suicide, but our legislation is a step in the right direction.”