Tuberville Op-Ed in Southeast Sun: Veterans have protected us; now we must protect them

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) authored the following op-ed in the Southeast Sun, as part of National Suicide Prevention month, to bring attention to the growing  epidemic of veteran suicide. Senator Tuberville discusses the heroism of Alabama’s veterans and two pieces of legislation he has introduced, the HBOT Access Act and the GHAPS Act, to increase access to lifesaving care and mental health resources.

Veterans have protected us; now we must protect them

U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville

The Southeast Sun

September 30, 2021


Veterans embody the American spirit by fighting for something greater than themselves. The sacrifices that come with protecting our nation’s freedoms and liberties are not without tremendous cost. Alabama is proudly home to nearly 400,000 veterans from across multiple wars, and each and every one of them deserves the support of their communities as they transition from military service to civilian life. Veterans carry their military service with them throughout their lives, and it is important that we—their networks, communities, friends and families—are present and supportive. There is always more we can do to support our veterans: “thank you for your service” requires action, not just words. 

Even the strongest war fighters struggle with the transition to civilian life. Although they are no longer in combat, war can leave wounds that take a lifetime to heal. Veterans face many challenges upon their return home, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and depression, not to mention family, financial and employment stress. I, like many Alabamians, have witnessed the heartbreaking impact of these invisible scars. While some are able to lean on the shoulders of friends and loved ones, many suffer silently and alone. 

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and while this month is an opportunity to shine a light on this important issue, we owe it to our veterans to provide support year-round.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for female veterans, and the second leading cause for male veterans. We lose an average of 18 veterans a day to suicide, with four times as many veterans taking their own life than dying in combat. Our military personnel come face-to-face with foreign adversaries, only to return home and battle a more sinister enemy. It’s time to stop this trend. One life lost is one too many. We must do more to break the stigma surrounding mental health and encourage those who are suffering to seek treatment; this is a battle we cannot afford to lose.

This begins with increasing access to alternate treatment options and taking full advantage of existing technology.

In a nation with cutting-edge technology and innovation, we must utilize all resources and treatments available to end the veteran-suicide epidemic. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, or HBOT, is a holistic treatment option largely supported by veterans in Alabama and across the nation to address PTSD and TBI, among other conditions. HBOT therapy could be a lifeline for veterans suffering from the lingering impacts of battle. I introduced the HBOT Access Act to provide high-risk veterans, who have exhausted all other options, access to this treatment. This legislation builds on the Right to Try Act legislation signed into law by President Trump and is a step in the right direction to explore nontraditional treatment options. We have nothing to lose and lives to save.

Advancements in telehealth technology can also be leveraged to have the care come to veterans, rather than making veterans traveling to the location of care. This is especially important for those living in rural communities, which is true for the majority of Alabama veterans. The Guaranteeing Healthcare Access to all Personnel who Served, or GHAPS Act, seeks to craft innovative solutions targeted towards veterans who may not be able to easily drive to a VA facility. In difficult moments, knowing that someone is available via phone or through a computer screen could make all the difference.

As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs committee, I will continue leading discussions and work to pass solutions like these for the veterans of today and tomorrow.

We will never be able to fully repay the debt of gratitude for those who risk life and limb to defend our country. But our veterans must know they are not fighting their struggles alone. We should all take the initiative to raise awareness about veteran suicide, have the difficult conversations, and ensure our veterans get the care and attention they have earned. 

They have fought for us–now we must fight for them.

If you are a veteran struggling with mental health, help is available. The Veterans Crisis Line is available to assist 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.

Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.