OAS Advocates on H.R. 3495, Improve Well-Being for Veterans Act

OAS Advocates on H.R. 3495, Improve Well-Being for Veterans Act

Bill Amendments Limits Groups Who Could Help the Most

What started out as good news for Veterans at risk and out of contact with the VA turned bad with an amendment to H.R. 3495. An amendment, penned by Mark Takano, United States Representative for California, turned that all on it’s head now. Groups whose missions call for Veteran suicide prevention rallied up and weighed in, Once a Soldier among them.

Today brings a vote on H.R. 3495, Improve Well-Being for Veterans Act. This bill would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide financial assistance to eligible entities to provide and coordinate the provision of suicide prevention services for veterans at risk of suicide and veteran families through the award of grants to such entities, and for other purposes.

Financially speaking, the bill would also grant up to $750,000/year one and $1,000,000 year two and beyond to some nonprofits. While not perfect, it’s not the bill that got us involved, but an Amendment to it by Mark Takano, United States Representative for California’s 41st congressional district since 2013.

Interesting side note: This bill has a 2% chance of being enacted, according to Skopos Labs. Update: pass percentage is now 20.

 

 

Our Advocacy Efforts on H.R. 3495

It is argued by Once a Soldier, and our name is signed to a list of name at the end of a letter to  that Rep. Takano’s Amendment would miss some of the “boots on the front line” of the fight to stop soldier suicide. Specifically, our letter included this language:

“While the regional coordination service grants envisioned in the legislation are important, and as a group we support them, they are not enough to adequately engage on veteran suicide prevention. We also need innovative and non-traditional veteran suicide prevention programs which combat veteran isolation and lack of community connection wherever those “communities” may lie.”

Once a Soldier has always been innovative and non-traditional, so we feel that our approach will be validated by this bill.

Our Partners

We have to give all the credit for our involvement in this bill Bob “Shoebob” Carey.,CAPT, USN (Ret), who is the Chief Advocacy Officer for The Independence Fund. His efforts to build a coalition of Veteran and Behavioral Health organization leaders caught us up. His email four days ago asking for our signature on a letter that was forwarded to the right parties was a great opportunity for us. While we don’t enjoy the luxury of a full-time Advocacy Officer, we could see that his position was one we could support. And we did.

Here is the complete text of the letter sent December 4, 2019.

Others that signed the letter: 

 

  • The Independence Fund
  • TREA – The Enlisted Association
  • National Association of American Veterans, Inc.
  • Veterans Healing Farm
  • Travis Manion Foundation
  • Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)
  • National Alliance to End Veteran Suicide
  • AMVETS – American Veterans
  • PsychHub
  • SAW – Save a Warrior
  • Once a Soldier
  • Angel Force
  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
  • Psych Armor

John Rutherford is our district’s Representative in the House. We have advocated successfully with is office in the past, as seen here and here, and they have been greatly supportive of our cause. This latest effort is no different. But, Rep. Rutherford will not involved in today’s vote, we are working with them for the future should it come before him for a vote.

ABOUT ONCE A SOLDIER

Our Veterans are killing themselves in record numbers mostly due to PTSD. An overmatched VA can’t take care of them or their families. We will.

Soldier suicide leaves Veteran families with thousands of dollars of bills unpaid, mostly bank loans.

We are the only nonprofit standing with the families after a veteran suicide. Stand with us.

Our Mission: Become the preferred channel for donors, advocates and volunteers who care about veteran families left behind after a soldier suicide.

We Did It! A Bill for Our Families Is One Step Closer

We Did It! A Bill for Our Families Is One Step Closer

Congressional Legislative Director Nick Vance Meets With Once a Soldier

Representative John Rutherford (R) Represents Our Home District

After our first productive meeting in August of 2019 with Florida Representative John Rutherford’s District Director Chris Miller, we took the next step and met with Nick Vance, the Legislative Director.

“It’s a very long road for a bill to become a law, but we’re on the path now. This will be a big win for our veteran families of soldier suicide.” says David Barbush, Founder and CEO of Once a Soldier. Those sentiments came just after Mr. Barbush’s meeting with Representative John Rutherford’s Legislative Director Nick Vance.

During the 30-minute exchange, Mr. Vance showed a clear understanding of how best to advance our common goals. There was also a clear message of writing a bill that would grant funds for those programs that would help with the emotional support needed by veteran families after a suicide.

Next Steps for Our Families

Once a Soldier offered to bring one of our families to Washington D. C. to let Congress hear their stories first hand. That offer was accepted even though no date or clear opportunity was identified.

Secondly, Once a Soldier also offered to pen a first draft with preface language that would set the table for the details of the bill. That offer was graciously passed upon, as the office of Florida’s Fourth District congressman can take the lead.

Furthermore, timely follow-up on the progress was promised by Mr. Vance as he navigates his landscape inside the halls of Congress. Recent bills related to our cause were forwarded by Mr. Rutherford. The PAWS Act would mandate the financial support for nonprofit veteran charities that train PTSD service dogs and their veteran owners. That Act is still trying to get passed, but it shows that we have a friend in the right place.

 

ABOUT ONCE A SOLDIER

Our Veterans are killing themselves in record numbers mostly due to PTSD. An overmatched VA can’t take care of them or their families. We will.

Soldier suicide leaves Veteran families with thousands of dollars of bills unpaid, mostly bank loans.

We are the only nonprofit standing with the families after a veteran suicide. Stand with us.

Our Mission: Become the preferred channel for donors, advocates and volunteers who care about veteran families left behind after a soldier suicide.

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