Howard and Jean Somers, parents of Daniel Somers, testify about their son’s suicide during a House Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing about the VA’s Mental Health Care procedures. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
Sitting close together, Harold and Jean Somers took turns reading their statement, peering through almost matching wire-rimmed glasses. A few times, he finished her sentence when she started to cry. Once, she did the same for him.
Brian Portwine’s mom, Peggy, said he should have gotten an automatic mental health evaluation after a fellow soldier he’d just switched seats with in their Humvee in Iraq was blown to bits. That didn’t happen, though.
The committee’s chairman, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), introduced a bill on Thursday called the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, which would require the National Guard and VA to work together. Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.), a retired Army colonel and Iraq veteran, has proposed similar legislation to financially reward psychiatrists who stay in the VA system.
It’s unclear what VA could offer to doctors to stay on in a place that would leave a man who fought for us, and then couldn’t forgive himself, crying on the floor.