Lawmakers are confident bipartisan bill, supported by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), will become law
Washington, D.C. (January 7, 2015) – Today, Representatives Tim Walz (D-Minn.), Chairman of the VA Committee Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) announced the reintroduction of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act, a bill supported by veterans and their advocates to help prevent veteran suicide and ensure our nations heroes get the care and support they need.
The legislation, named in honor of the late Iraq and Afghanistan War Veteran and suicide prevention advocate Clay Hunt, unanimously passed the House of Representatives in the 113th Congress and had broad support in the Senate, but was blocked from becoming law by a lone Senator. Representatives Walz, Miller, and Duckworth first introduced their bipartisan legislation last summer after spending months working together to write final legislation with veterans and their advocates.
“Currently, 22 veterans die by suicide each and every day,” Rep. Walz, the highest ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress, said. “These folks aren’t just our former warriors either; they’re our mothers and fathers. They’re our grandfathers and grandmothers. They’re our brothers and sisters. They’re our neighbors and friends. While no piece of legislation will completely end this heartbreaking epidemic, we cannot stand idly by while more of our heroes struggle with the invisible wounds of war. We must take action, and I continue to believe that this bipartisan bill is a step in the right direction. We can and must work urgently to send this bill to the President’s desk without delay.”
“Despite record mental health staffing and budget levels at the Department of Veterans Affairs, an average of 18 to 22 veterans have been taking their own lives each day for more than a decade. Solutions to this horrific problem will only come from comprehensive, new ideas that improve the accessibility and effectiveness of mental health care available to our veterans. 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. I urge all my colleagues to once again join us in helping preserve the lives of our nation’s most at-risk returning heroes,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
“As a nation, we have a commitment to our Veterans to make sure that they receive the care that they need, and that means reducing barriers to care however we can. When an average of 22 Veterans commit suicide every day, we are failing them,” Representative Duckworth said. “I am proud to join with Congressman Walz and Chairman Miller in introducing this legislation that is a crucial step in reducing Veteran suicide.”
“IAVA applauds Chairman Miller, and Representatives Walz and Duckworth for reintroducing the Clay Hunt SAV Act in the House today,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “After last year’s overwhelming bipartisan support, we now urge the House to move quickly in passing this bill, which will help curb the veteran suicide rate. Twenty-two veterans die by suicide each day and our country can provide the tools to help reverse that number. No veteran should have to cut through bureaucratic red tape to access the mental health care they earned. As Congress begins a new year, veterans and their families are watching Washington closely to see who has our back.”
A 2012 study from the Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that 22 veterans are lost each day to suicide. That’s over 150 veteran suicides per week, over 600 per month, and over 8,000 per year. To put these staggering numbers in perspective, it is estimated that more veterans take their own lives each year than have been Killed in Action since 9/11.
The Clay Hunt SAV Act seeks to quell this growing epidemic by:
Increasing Access to Mental Health Care and Capacity at VA to Meet Demand
- Requires the VA to create a one-stop, interactive website to serve as a centralized source of information regarding all VA mental health services for veterans.
- Addresses the shortage of mental health care professionals by authorizing the 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 evaluations of all mental health care and suicide prevention practices and programs at the VA 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 peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning Servicemembers with accessing VA mental health care services.
Rep. Walz spent 24 years in the Army National Guard and is the highest ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress. Rep. Duckworth served in the U.S. Army for 23 years and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard.
Note to media: Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA leadership.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. As a non-profit founded in 2004, IAVA’s mission is to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans. Celebrating its 15th anniversary, IAVA has connected more than 1.2 million veterans with resources and community, and provided more than 8,000 veterans with personalized support from IAVA’s Master’s level social workers.