- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 21, 2019

President Trump canceled federal student loan debts Wednesday for tens of thousands of veterans who are 100% disabled, saying it’s the nation who owes them instead for their service.

At the 75th annual American Veterans convention in Louisville, Kentucky, the president signed an executive action directing the Education Department to eliminate “every penny” of student loan debt for about 25,000 disabled veterans, who owe an average of $30,000.

The president said the action is worthy of veterans “who have made immense sacrifices, the ultimate sacrifice in many ways, for our nation.”

“That’s hundreds of millions of dollars in student debt held by our severely wounded warriors — it’s gone forever,” the president said.

Mr. Trump called to the stage retired Sgt. Katherine Cassell, who developed severe lung problems and other ailments after serving two tours in Iraq with the Army, Navy and Air Force. She is now working toward a degree at the University of Nevada.

“This is an amazing relief on my family, as well as — I know — many thousands of veterans,” she told the president.

Mr. Trump said of his action, “Veterans like Katherine, who have made such enormous sacrifices for our country, should not be asked to pay any more. Rather it is America who owes our heroes a supreme debt of gratitude.”

Bipartisan legislation was introduced in June in Congress that would dismiss all federal student loan debt for eligible veterans, regardless of whether they applied for related programs at the Education and Veterans Affairs departments.

The president also addressed the suicide crisis among veterans. He touted a new nasal spray approved by the Food and Drug Administration that is being used to treat individuals for depression.

Mr. Trump also called on the drug manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, to provide the spray to the government free of charge. He said he has ordered the VA to buy as much of it as possible in the meantime.

“They’ve done so well in this country, and they’ve made so much money, I think they should give it to us for free,” the president said.

The FDA in March approved the ketamine-derived nasal spray Spravato for treatment-resistant depression. It’s the first substantially new depression treatment in decades.

Ketamine is known as a party drug that’s often abused. Spravato is the brand name of esketamine, a more potent derivative that can be given as a lower-dose spray instead of an injection.

“It really takes [away] that horrible anxiety, whatever causes somebody to be so desperate to commit suicide,” Mr. Trump said of the drug. “Its results are incredible. And I don’t know long-term, but it really has an incredible effect on a lot of people.”

He said veterans contemplating suicide should know help is available. Each day on average in the U.S., 22 veterans take their own lives.

“My administration is determined to do everything in our power to save the lives of our heroes,” Mr. Trump said. “To every veteran who is facing this struggle, I want you to know that you are not alone. We are with you. You are not forgotten. And you are not beaten. You will overcome. We’re making progress, and millions of Americans are right by your side. And we are with you every single step of the way.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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