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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 30, 2021

Rep. Cindy Axne and President Joe Biden outside the Oval Office after the signing of the Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans’ Mental Health Act

President Biden Signs Axne Legislation Honoring Iowa Veteran Brandon Ketchum into Law

The Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans’ Mental Health Act expands VA rural mental health programs and supports additional research

WASHINGTON — Earlier today, President Joe Biden signed Rep. Cindy Axne’s (IA-03) bipartisan legislation to expand mental health care for rural veterans into law.

The Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans’ Mental Health Act, named in memory of Iowa veteran Brandon Ketchum, establishes new Rural Access Network for Growth Enhancement (RANGE) programs through the VA and supports additional research on rural veteran mental health care needs.

“I am so proud that my first standalone bill signed into law this Congress is one that honors the service of an Iowa hero – Sergeant Brandon Ketchum – and recognizes the need to have our veterans’ backs when they return home, regardless of where they live. Months ago, I promised Brandon’s mother, Bev, that I would fight to see this legislation through so that veterans like her son could get the mental health care they need when they return home – and I’m grateful to President Biden, Senators Tester and Moran, my Iowa colleagues, and all the others who helped make this law happen,” said Rep. Axne. “Sgt. Brandon Ketchum was a Marine Corps veteran who served twice in Iraq, and once in Afghanistan. He was a Combat Action Ribbon recipient and a loving son, brother, father, and friend. While I know his loss is felt deeply by all those who knew him, I hope his friends and family can stand proud knowing that this legislation passed in his memory will make a difference for veterans across the United States.”

Earlier today, President Biden and Axne called Ketchum’s mother, Bev, from the Oval Office to share with her the news of that Axne’s legislation had officially been signed into law.

The House passed the legislation in May. Rep. Axne spoke in favor of the legislation on the floor of the U.S. House prior to its passage. You can watch those remarks HERE.

“Brandon asked for help but was turned away because of a lack of resources. We must make sure – in his memory and for the sake of others still serving — that when our soldiers return home, they can get the treatment they need.” said Rep. Axne in a speech before the U.S. House.

Sergeant Brandon Ketchum (above) served in the Marine Corps, completing tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq. In his first tour alone, he cleared 92 roadside bombs in 7 months – service that earned him a Combat Action Ribbon.

In May, Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), the leaders of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced Rep. Axne’s bill in the U.S. Senate.

Rep. Axne introduced the legislation in the House in April with the backing of the entire Iowa House delegation.

In 2016, Sgt. Brandon Ketchum of Davenport died by suicide after he was denied access to mental health services related to his battle with post-traumatic stress disorder at a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facility in Iowa.

Background:

According to the VA, at least one in five veterans return from combat with at least one serious mental health condition, yet 85% of rural residents live in a Mental Health Care Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). 

To address this, the VA developed RANGE programs, which provide a small team of specialists to meet the needs of rural veterans with serious mental health and daily living issues.

These programs are designed to support veterans who often are at high risk for housing insecurity and extensive inpatient hospitalization by integrating community, family, and financial resources in support of independent living.

In addition to establishing three new veteran mental health programs, the new legislation bill will direct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study how the VA can improve mental health care for rural veterans to enable better response in the future for veterans like Sgt. Ketchum who request treatment.

The bill was originally introduced with Reps. Ashley Hinson (IA-01), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02), Randy Feenstra (IA-04), Tim Ryan (OH-13), and Ed Case (HI-01).

Support:

The Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans’ Mental Health Act has the support of The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Wounded Warrior Project, Military Veterans Advocacy, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Minority Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Fleet Reserve Association, Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs (NOVA), Sea Service Family Foundation, and The Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action.

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