WASHINGTON (KMTV) - Rep. Cindy Axne is leading the U.S. House of Representatives to vote on legislation that would expand access to mental health care for rural veterans. It's called the Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans’ Mental Health Act.
The Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans' Mental Health Act was named after Sgt. Brandon Ketchum, who was living in Davenport, Iowa when he took his own life. His family said he was suffering from PTSD.
Brandon served in Iraq with the Marine Corps and in Afghanistan with the Iowa Army National Guard. On his third tour, he got injured. He retired medically from the military and returned to normal life.
"He kind of grew distant after a while, just didn't want to come around family, and after he had multiple surgeries, and he did develop an addiction to the opioids and then that led to heroin," Beverly Kittoe, his mother, said.
Brandon's girlfriend, Kristine Nichols, says Brandon did seek help for his struggles.
"Once he started using substances, it was hard for him to recover from that in order to address the other issues that were taking place. He did a few inpatient stays at the VA over 5 or 6 years," Nichols said.
Nichols says he went to a VA facility in Iowa for help but there were not enough beds. The next day, he took his life.
"It was just really hard to know he had asked for help and he was denied it," Nichols said. "And for him, that was the straw that broke the camel's back. He felt like he couldn't ask anybody for help."
Kittoe says she still can't believe her son is gone.
"It was the worst day of my life. It was like a nightmare and even though it's been almost 5 years, I still feel like he's just on a deployment and he's coming back," Kittoe said.
Brandon's brother, Bradley Ketchum, hopes other veterans and their families can learn from their story.
"We still all hurt, it's a painful process to go through. Reach out to those that you think might need help," Bradley said.
Kittoe is determined to help other veterans with this legislation.
"I don't care what they have to do, they cannot turn anybody away, that is number one," Beverly said. "Number two, I feel that the veterans need to get together to realize that they are not alone."
Now other veterans can lean on the bill named after one of them.
To take a look at the bill, click here. The House is scheduled to vote on the bill on Wednesday.