Bipartisan Veterans Suicide Prevention Act Passes House
WASHINGTON — Today, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (Clay Hunt SAV) Act passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill was introduced by Chairman Jeff Miller and Reps. Tim Walz (D-MN) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and named in honor of the late Iraq and Afghanistan veteran and veterans advocate Clay Hunt. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Following House passage of the bill, Chairman Miller and Reps. Walz and Duckworth released the following statements:
“Despite record mental health staffing and budget levels at the Department of Veterans Affairs, today's veterans are falling victim to the invisible wounds of war all too often. An average of 18 to 22 veterans take their own lives each day - a heartbreaking statistic that has remained unchanged for more than a decade. In passing the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, the House took an important step toward putting an end to this grim status quo,” Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said. “The Clay Hunt SAV Act will ensure VA’s mental health and suicide prevention efforts receive crucial independent, third party oversight while creating a greater accounting of available services and fostering an enhanced community approach to delivering veterans suicide prevention and mental health care treatment, which is why I urge my colleagues in the Senate to join me in supporting it.”
“The Clay Hunt SAV Act represents a major step forward in the fight to end veteran suicide. I’m pleased the House took action and moved it forward today. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to do the same without delay. Let’s work together to send this bipartisan bill to the President for his signature,” Rep. Walz, the highest ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress, said. “The fight, however, does not end after this bill becomes law. There is still more that must be done to improve mental health care for our veterans. I will continue working with my colleagues in Congress, veterans, and veterans’ advocates to ensure that improving care for our warriors remains a top priority.”
“Currently, there are over 2 million Post 9/11 Veterans across the country, and this number will only increase as our military force structure continues to draw down. As the nature of war changes, the injuries our warriors sustain also change. Increasingly, theirs are invisible wounds, which do not have simple treatment and do not always manifest immediately,” Representative Duckworth said. “Just as these Veterans remained faithful to our country on the battlefield, it is our turn as their Representatives to remain faithful to them and it is our responsibility as a nation to, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, ‘care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.’ This responsibility includes ensuring that when our service men and women make the brave decision to seek help, they get the quality assistance and treatment they deserve in a timely manner. I am proud to that this bipartisan legislation takes a crucial step in reducing Veteran suicide.”
A 2012 report from the Department of Veterans Affairs noted that an average of 18-22 veterans have committed suicide each day for more than a decade.
The Clay Hunt SAV Act seeks to quell this epidemic by:
Increasing Access to Mental Health Care and Capacity at VA to Meet Demand
- Requires VA to create a one-stop, interactive website to serve as a centralized source of information regarding all department mental health services.
- Addresses the shortage of mental health care professionals by authorizing VA to conduct a student loan repayment pilot program aimed at recruiting and retaining psychiatrists.
Improving the Quality of Care and Boosting Accountability at VA
- Requires a yearly evaluation of all VA mental health care and suicide prevention practices and programs to find out what’s working and what’s not working and make recommendations to improve care.
Developing a Community Support System for Veterans
- Establishes a pilot program to assist veterans transitioning from active duty to veteran status.
- Requires VA to collaborate with nonprofit mental health organizations to improve the efficiency of suicide prevention efforts.
Read the text of the bill here.