January 13, 2015

Ranking Member Corrine Brown Applauds House Passage of Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act

Washington D.C.- House Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Corrine Brown worked alongside her colleagues in the Veterans’ Affairs Committee to bring about unanimous House passage of H.R. 203, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act.  The SAV Act was one of the first bills of the 114th Congress to be introduced, with the goal of addressing the epidemic of suicide among our nation’s veterans.  With respect to this legislation, Ranking Member Brown released the following statement:

“I am proud to announce that the Clay Hunt SAV Act passed the House of Representatives yesterday. This important piece of legislation will ultimately improve the healthcare our veterans receive for the mental wounds they sustained while defending this great nation. During the 113th Congress, I was saddened to hear the story of Clay Hunt, a bright, selfless young man with a servant’s heart; however, I am honored to be part of his legacy in the passing of this crucial piece of legislation.

Providing the mental health care that veterans need and effectively dealing with the crisis of veteran suicides have been long-standing concerns of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.  War is indeed terrible, and the effects of combat and service on our veterans last a lifetime.  For far too long our society and military culture itself have acted as if the need for mental health care treatment is a weakness and have discouraged adequate treatment.  This attitude is changing, but it cannot change fast enough. In the area of mental health for our veterans and returning service members, there are no easy answers or quick fixes.

H.R. 203, the SAV Act, takes a number of important steps, including improving the safety net for at-risk veterans, while also introducing increased accountability into VA mental health care and suicide prevention programs using a third party evaluation.  It will also provide veterans with a website that will serve as a centralized source of information on mental health services. 

In addition, the SAV Act initiates a program to help address some of the glaring mental health personnel shortages at the VA.  While the incentives in this bill are limited to the psychiatry field, I would like to see this effort expanded in the future to all the mental health professional shortfalls.  In addition, H.R. 203 would expand peer support networks. 

The fact that twenty-two veterans commit suicide daily – more than 8,000 every year, is outright tragic.  Of the more than 2 million Americans who have served in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is estimated that one-third, roughly 600,000 women and men, have traumatic brain injury, PTSD or depression.  To combat this epidemic, this bill, which was named in honor of a late Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran and noted suicide prevention advocate who committed suicide on March 31, 2011, The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act is yet another strong step forward in the goal of ensuring our nation’s veterans have the mental health care support they need.”