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Suozzi to unveil bill seeking free mental health for veterans

Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) said Sunday, May

Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) said Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Old Bethpage that he will unveil a bill this week to provide free mental health counseling to all American military veterans. Credit: Steve Pfost

Rep. Thomas Suozzi announced Sunday in Old Bethpage that he will soon unveil new legislation to provide free mental health counseling to all veterans.

Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) discussed the bill at a simulation of a World War II encampment in the French countryside, surrounded by period tanks, artillery and officers in uniform.

Suozzi said that the difficulty accessing mental health counseling is a “very serious problem facing our country that we need to address.”

“I think that we have an obligation to say thank you and to care for all of our veterans,” Suozzi said.

Under his new bill, which will be introduced this week, Suozzi is proposing easing restrictions on veterans’ mental health treatment, which currently factors in discharge status and income.

In 2014, an average of 20 veterans committed suicide daily, according to a 2016 report by the Department of Veterans Affairs. About 65 percent of these veterans were 50 and older.

Suozzi also spoke about the Navy veteran who drove through a crowd Friday in Times Square, a man who received a less-than honorable discharge three years ago.

“This is a very real life problem that is going to get worse as we see veterans coming out of the military and trying to return to civilian life without the proper services . . . We need to open these services up to all veterans.”

Joe Feeser, 71, a Korean War veteran, said he supported Suozzi’s forthcoming bill.

“A lot of vets can’t afford doctors bills today,” said Feeser, of Hicksville. “These guys fought for their country and now they’re killing themselves because they can’t get help.’’

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