I asked the congressman to write this, because I have a military suicide in my family, many years ago during Vietnam, and because as parnell44 put it, Rush Holt cares about closing cracks so people don’t fall through them. I added the photo of Coleman, from The Sentinel, exec. editor Greg Bean, Coleman’s father. – – Rosi Efthim
Sergeant Coleman Bean of East Brunswick served two combat tours in Iraq. In between and after those tours, he sought treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Because Sgt. Bean was a member of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR)-a pool of Reserve soldiers not assigned to any unit but available for mobilization if needed-he could not get treatment for his condition because the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs refused to take ownership of Sgt. Bean and the thousands like him.
Sgt. Bean’s father, Greg Bean, described what happened next in an eloquent column published as a Veterans Day 2008 tribute to his son:
He fell through the cracks. He had no advocate, no Army machinery to help him find his way through the system. He felt he was literally on his own. He made appointments with the VA to have an ulcer treated and to obtain treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Those appointments were postponed. He was still waiting when he took his own life Sept. 6.
A few weeks after Coleman took his life, the VA called to confirm his next appointment.
There is a serious gap in our military prevention efforts, a gap that needlessly cost the life of Sgt. Bean. Earlier this month, I introduced bipartisan legislation – named in honor of Sgt. Bean – that would close that gap.
My bill would require the Defense Department to ensure that members of the IRR who have served at least one tour in either Iraq or Afghanistan receive a counseling call from properly trained personnel not less than once every 90 days, and determine the emotional, psychological, medical, and career needs and concerns of the IRR member. Any IRR member identified as being at risk of harming his or her self would be immediately referred to the nearest emergency room for immediate evaluation and treatment by a qualified mental health care provider.
Last year, this bill was included in the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act. Unfortunately, an anonymous Senate conferee objected to this provision during the conference report negotiations on the grounds of costs-even though no member of the Senate ever requested that the Congressional Budget Office score the provision. Indeed, CBO has confirmed that it would have no impact on direct spending or revenues. How anyone could believe that our government can’t afford to make suicide prevention phone calls to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is baffling.
Two federal agencies charged with helping prevent suicides among our returning troops utterly failed Sgt. Bean and his family. We cannot allow another family to lose a son or daughter, a father or mother, a husband or a wife because of bureaucratic buck-passing.
This Friday, the House again passed a Defense Authorization Act, and again it includes my amendment. I now urge members of the Senate to join us in taking a simple step to help all our Ready Reserve soldiers get access to the suicide prevention counseling and support that they need and deserve.