5th District Congresswoman Esty opposes a bill to remove veterans’ mental health records from the National Instant Criminal Background Checks System, without first holding a hearing. She offered a substitute amendment Wednesday calling for a study on the effectiveness of the background check system at protecting veterans in mental health crisis.
She said the bill would upend the bipartisan compromise agreed to in the 21st Century Cures Act, which was passed three months ago. The Act created a system to ensure due process for veterans, allowing beneficiaries to present evidence from a mental health professional and be represented by counsel at incompetency hearings.
The bill passed the Committee by voice vote and will likely head to the House floor for consideration in the next few weeks.
Esty said more than 20 veterans die by suicide per day, the vast majority by firearm, and the bill being considered would make it easier, not harder, for those veterans in crisis to get access to a firearm.
A Department of Veterans Affairs report provided to Congress in 2015 showed that of the approximately 170,000 veterans whose names were previously shared with NICS:
· 19,522 were diagnosed with schizophrenia;
· 15,171 were diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder;
· 11,084 were diagnosed with dementia;
· 5,462 had Alzheimer’s; and
· 3,981 had serious depression.