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Iowa’s congressional delegation backs Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans’ Mental Health Act

WASHINGTON — The four Iowans who serve in the U.S. House are backing a bill to expand and improve mental health services for veterans who live in rural areas. The bill has been named in honor of a veteran from Davenport.

“Five years ago, retired Sergeant Brandon Ketchum took his life after he was unable to get the mental health support that he needed,” says Iowa Congresswoman Cindy Axne of West Des Moines. She says Ketchum was a Marine who cleared 92 roadside bombs in seven months in Iraq. He ultimately did two tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. “But like so many of his fellow veterans, Sergeant Ketchum struggled with addiction, depression and PTSD related to his time in uniform and when he sought in-patient hospitalization in 2016 from an Iowa VA, the treatment rooms were all full and he was denied in-patient treatment,” Axne says. “Hours later, Sergeant Ketchum took his life.”

Axne is lead sponsor of a bill that would require a Veterans Administration study of how to improve mental health services for veterans in rural areas. It also calls for spending one-point-two million dollars a year to expand the number of mental health professionals who serve veterans in rural America. “We don’t have enough adequate mental health services across this country for our veterans,” Axne says. “An HHS study found that 50% of returning veterans who need mental health treatment will receive it. These mental health services are even harder to find in rural parts of our country like Iowa.”

Axne testified about the bill at a recent U.S. House Veterans Affairs subcommittee hearing. Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Ottumwa, a veteran who serves on the panel, says the government needs to do better by its veterans. Former Iowa Congressman Dave Loebsack sought similiar changes shortly after Ketchum’s death.

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