As 20 veterans die per day by suicide, bill to improve Suicide Hotline Stalls In Senate

Published: Oct. 2, 2016 at 8:44 PM CDT
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UPDATED Oct. 4, 2016

More than one-third of calls to a suicide hotline for troubled veterans are not being answered according the VA's Veterans Crisis hotline's former director.

New statistics show that 20 veterans commit suicide per day, and around the same time the latest statistics came to light a bill to increase the efficiency of the suicide hotline dedicated to veterans was blocked from being voted on in the Senate according to one of the bill's originators.

Iowa Congressman David Young thought he had a slam dunk with the "No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act." In fact, it flew through the U.S. House with a 357-0 vote. At the time a member of his staff told WOWT 6 News that the bill should pass quickly.

This week all progress came to a stop. The bill didn't fail on the floor; it never made it there.

"Unfortunately politics do get in the way sometimes," said Young, "but I'm still hopeful that we can try to get this done."

Young seemed reluctant to place blame on any individual, but Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was more than happy to tweet his dissatisfaction with U.S. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.

"David Young has worked hard on a bill to make sure no call to the veterans crisis call line goes unanswered, but Harry Reid blocked it," wrote Ryan.

Reid released a statement Tuesday stating that it was the Republican leadership, specifically Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, that stood in the way of the bill.

"There is nothing stopping the Republican leader from bringing either the Senate or House version of this bill to the floor for a vote," said Reid. "I believe the Senate bill should come to the floor through regular order, but if the Republican leader decided to take a shortcut and bring the House-passed version to the floor immediately, I certainly would not object."

Reid accused the Republican leadership in the Senate of being lazy, noting that legislators adjourned their latest session more than a week before the original schedule.

The bill, which was moving so quickly through the process of becoming law until recently, now seems to be stuck in a political tug of war.

Members of Young's office had originally indicated that the motivation to stall the bill could be linked to his re-election campaign in a battle ground state. Young is a Republican and is facing competition in a close Iowa race. Now Democratic leadership is blaming Republican's for the bill being stalled.

It remains to be seen what will happen next. It is still possible for the bill to come before the Senate floor before the session ends.

Young told WOWT 6 News that his office is still working to see whether members of Senate would be willing to attempt to bring the bill to the floor in the coming weeks.

The crisis hotline received more than 500,000 calls last year. The toll-free hotline number is 800-273-8255.