In her first speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) urged lawmakers to improve health care for veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sinema, who was sworn in as a senator in January, shared the story behind the Sgt. Daniel Somers Network of Support Act, which she introduced in May.
Somers was an Army veteran from her state who served two tours in Iraq. When he came home, he experienced depression, nightmares and flashbacks, all intensified by a traumatic brain injury, she said.
Sinema explained that the Department of Veterans Affairs had enrolled him in group therapy sessions, but he declined to attend because his past work interrogating terror suspects was classified and he feared discussing it with others.
Though he repeatedly sought individual sessions, the VA delayed its response in providing him appropriate care, Sinema said.
In 2013, Somers died by suicide.
“Americans returning home from serving our nation must always have somewhere to turn for support. I am committed to ensuring no veteran feels trapped like Sgt. Somers did, and that all of our veterans have access to appropriate mental health care,” Sinema said.
Sinema’s bill ― co-sponsored by Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) ― would require that service members be asked for names of people within their support network so that their loved ones can be connected with information about available resources and benefits to combat PTSD.
“This commonsense solution could be a game changer for the men and women who risk their lives to protect our freedoms, because isolation leads to tragedy,” Sinema said.
According to VA statistics, between 11% and 20% of veterans who served in Iraq from 2002 to 2010 or Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014 have PTSD in a given year.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources. If you’re a veteran, or if you know one in need of help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the Veterans Crisis Line.