By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tuesday, May 23, 2017, US Senator Luther Strange (R-Alabama) announced that he was co-sponsoring the Veteran Overmedication Prevention Act of 2017, S 992, which is sponsored by Senator John McCain (R-Arizona).
Sen. Strange said, “The men and women of our nation’s armed forces deserve the recognition of a grateful nation, and our commitment to honor their sacrifices must continue after they hang up their uniforms. The VA system is the front line of medical care for those dealing with the after-effects of combat, and it is critical that facilities are equipped with the latest clinical data to aid the recovery process, prevent over-prescription and avoid tragedy. I am proud to stand with Chairman McCain and my colleagues as we work to stem the tide of these preventable deaths.”
The Legislation would require that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) commission a review of the deaths of covered veterans by suicide during the last five years. The review would seek to identify and address links between over-prescription and depressive disorders for the purpose of updating VA clinical care guidelines.
According to information provided by Senator McCain’s office, 20 veterans a day die from suicide, accounting for nearly a quarter of all deaths from suicide among US adults. Since 2001, the rate of veteran suicide has increased by 32 percent. Since 2001, there has been a 259 percent increase in narcotics prescriptions. Veterans die from accidental narcotic overdose at a 33 percent higher rate than the rest of the population.
Sen. McCain said, “The tragedy of 20 veterans a day dying from suicide is a national scandal. Combatting this epidemic will require the best research and understanding about the key causes of veteran suicide, including whether overmedication of drugs, such as opioid pain-killers, is a contributing factor in suicide-related deaths. This legislation would authorize an independent review of veterans who died of suicide or a drug overdose over the last five years to ensure doctors develop safe and effective treatment plans for their veteran patients. We have a long way to go to eradicate veteran suicide, but this legislation builds on important efforts to end the tragedy that continues to claim far too many lives far too soon.”
Strange was appointed to the Senate by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) after Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) was confirmed as US Attorney General by the full Senate. Strange faces a Special Primary election on August 15 versus ten other Republicans, including former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore, Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) former Christian Coalition President Randy Brinson, and state Senator Trip Pittman (R-Montrose).