U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, said on Wednesday that one of the top priorities of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is caring for active and former service members’ mental health and preventing suicide.
Moran spoke in-person at the Manhattan Military Relations Committee’s monthly luncheon, updating members on Congressional efforts to support soldiers and veterans. The committee is an entity of the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce.
Moran, who is the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, introduced legislation in 2019 that aims to prevent veteran suicides.
The John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act is named after a retired Navy commander who died by suicide in 2018 at the age of 46. It gives up to $174 million during the next five years to local and state organizations that provide suicide prevention services to veterans and their families.
The bill passed the House without objection, and former President Donald Trump signed it into law.
“If you’re a veteran, particularly in places the farthest distance from the VA and you’re contemplating suicide or having mental health issues, the idea of traveling to Topeka or Wichita or to Leavenworth is probably not a very good option,” Moran said. “You need services immediately, companionship, and care.”
Through this effort, Moran said local organizations, whether it’s the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a church or otherwise, can more easily provide mental health services to veterans in their communities.
Moran said the Senate Defense Communities Caucus, of which he is a chairman, also created a grant program for communities that need additional resources to cover costs associated with having a military installation in their vicinity. He said Manhattan is pursuing that opportunity.
“We’re absolutely convinced that with the right kind of adjustments with the grant application, the Manhattan grant proposal will … be well-received,” Moran said. “We will be lobbying the defense department to make certain that (it gets) additional dollars.”