Rep. Schweyer testifies before House Veterans Affairs committee on his Veterans Suicide Prevention Grant Program

State Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh, highlighted his legislation

(H.B. 985) before the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee that would establish a Veteran Suicide Prevention Grant Program to be administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Schweyer said his legislation has two components: to establish the program for veterans to receive mental health and support and to provide a permanent funding stream in the state budget to specifically support veterans’ suicide prevention programs.

“Often times we hear heartbreaking stories of how our veterans struggle with both the visible and invisible wounds of war,” Schweyer said. “Many veterans become frustrated and disenfranchised with the extremely complicated veterans’ benefits system and I want to change that.”

The legislation would increase the fee for birth and death certificates by $2 each. The generated revenue would be deposited into a fund, administered by the DMVA, specifically for the competitive grant program.

The Lehigh County lawmaker said that during the DMVA budget hearing last week, Adj. Gen. Anthony Carrelli testified the suicide rate for Pennsylvania veterans is twice the rate of non-servicemen and women in the state.

“It is critical we ensure that all of our veterans across Pennsylvania and their loved ones have the necessary resources and support with both the physical and psychological wounds of war,” Schweyer said.

Schweyer said the funding would be controlled by the DMVA and the grants would be capped at $25,000 in order to assist veterans who need the assistance.

The program is expected to generate $800,000 annually.