“On Saturday I heard another compelling story from a North Dakota veteran named AJ about the powerful difference Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy can make in the lives of our veterans. Our legislation advances the study of this impactful treatment and will hopefully lead to more opportunities for veterans to receive it through the VA. I urge the House to pass our bill and send it to President Trump’s desk.” – Senator Cramer

The Senate approved a major suicide prevention bill Wednesday night that would expand mental health care for transitioning service members and establish a grant program for local organizations that work with veterans.

The Senate passed the bill, S. 785, by voice vote late Wednesday. The legislation had stalled in the chamber for over a year but was advanced after gaining support from the White House and the Department of Veterans Affairs. It must still pass the House before becoming law.

“For months now, our committee has been working closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the White House to improve upon and advance S. 785,” Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said on the Senate floor. “We must take real and urgent action to tackle these challenges together.”

The bill appropriates $174 million to the VA secretary for 2021 through 2025. It mandates that the department provide health care to all veterans for one year after they transition from active duty — building into law an initiative President Donald Trump expressed support for in 2018.

The bill also creates a grant program that would allow up to $750,000 to be awarded to state and local organizations that provide suicide prevention services to veterans and their families. In addition, the legislation boosts mental health staff, alternative therapies and suicide prevention research at the VA. Among a list of measures, the legislation would provide hyperbaric oxygen therapy to veterans and initiate a study to see whether there’s a correlation between suicide risk and living at high altitudes.

Specifically, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019 includes the following provisions to expand the VA’s research into HBOT. Requires the VA to study and report on the effectiveness of this alternative treatment option in partnership with private organizations, a provision offered by Senator Kevin Cramer.

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