February 11, 2016

Ranking Member Corrine Brown Stresses Importance of Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act's First Anniversary

Washington, D.C. – On the first anniversary of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act, House Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Corrine Brown made the following statement:

“The exorbitantly high number of veteran suicides is, and must remain, a top priority.  Beyond a doubt, this plague affecting our nation’s veterans is entirely unacceptable.  Last week I attended the ‘Preventing Veteran Suicide: Call to Action,’ a national summit sponsored by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, to discuss the urgency of assisting veterans who may be suffering from the psychological trauma of combat and the stress of transition to civilian life, and believe that suicide may be their only option.  This event was attended by VA and Department of Defense leaders, Veterans, family members, mental health professionals, academics, Veteran Service Organizations, and community partners. Ms. Susan and Richard Selke were also in attendance.  Their son, Clay Hunt, was a Marine Corps Veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who took his own life in 2011.  And in his honor, members of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee worked in close collaboration to pass the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act, which went on to be signed into law by President Obama on February 12, 2015.   

Essentially, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act gives the VA additional authority to expand suicide prevention efforts for veterans, and allows the agency to increase community partnerships. And as a result of the SAV Act, a number of important steps are in place, such as the improvement of the safety net for at-risk veterans, an increase in accountability in VA mental health care and suicide prevention programs using a third party evaluation, and the development of a website that serves as a centralized source of information on mental health services. In addition, the SAV Act initiated a program to help address some of the glaring mental health personnel shortages at the VA. 

The fact that twenty-two veterans die by 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.  Additionally, the dramatic increase in suicide among women veterans is outright alarming; and in response, the House passed HR 2915 to ‘direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to identify mental health care and suicide prevention programs that are most effective in treating women veterans’ to combat this epidemic.

The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act provides a crucial step forward towards the goal of ensuring that our nation’s veterans have the mental health care they need to guide them in their struggle towards readjustment despite potential challenges of service-related trauma and stressful transitions without ending their lives tragically.  And on the first anniversary of the SAV Act I am very pleased to witness the progress the VA has made thus far in implementing its crucial provisions.”