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Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Unanimously Passes Clay Hunt SAV Act

IAVA calls on full Senate to pass critical legislation to help stop veteran suicide

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 21, 2015) – This morning, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee unanimously approved the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act as its first legislative action of the 114th Congress. The bipartisan bill – cosponsored by 18 Democrats, nine Republicans, and one Independent – will improve access to quality mental health care and combat veteran suicide. IAVA, which spearheaded and helped craft the legislation, urges the Senate to move quickly in passing the bipartisan bill. More than 20 veteran service organizations and partners such as the American Psychiatric Association support the legislation, named after Marine veteran Clay Hunt who died by suicide in 2011.

“While not mentioned in the State of the Union or Republican response last night, this is the moment our members have long been fighting for, and we hope and fully expect the Senate to deliver,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “After the Clay Hunt SAV Act failed in the Senate last session due to now retired Senator Tom Coburn’s objection, our community has witnessed an enormous amount of support like never before. IAVA applauds Chairman Isakson for prioritizing the Clay Hunt SAV Act as his first legislative action after taking over the reins of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Now is the time for lawmakers to show their true support for veterans. Passage of this bill will give all Americans hope that there can be bipartisan support for good ideas. The veteran suicide trend can be reversed. This legislation will boost accountability within VA’s suicide prevention programs to ensure our veterans are getting the best care out there. Combating suicide should not be a political fight. Our members are watching closely to see who stands with us.”

Last week, the Clay Hunt SAV Act gained serious momentum in Washington. The House bill, H.R. 203, unanimously passed the House last Monday. A few days later, Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) reintroduced the Senate version of the bill, S. 167.

The bill is being discussed at the same time “American Sniper” is galvanizing attention to veterans mental health care issues. Both the Chris Kyle story and the Clay Hunt story, who was a Marine sniper, tell the dramatic, often underreported struggles that our veterans face when they return to civilian life.

In IAVA’s 2014 Member Survey, 47 percent of respondents know at least one Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who has attempted suicide, while 40 percent of respondents know someone who has died by suicide, up three points from 2013. A staggering 31 percent of respondents have thought about taking their own life since joining the military.

To support its legislative efforts, IAVA launched a petition in December after Sen. Coburn blocked the Clay Hunt SAV Act. To date, the grassroots petition currently includes more than 148,500 signatures of IAVA members and supporters. Click here to learn more.

Note to media: Email press@iava.org or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or 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 12th year anniversary, IAVA has connected more than 1.2 million veterans with resources and community, and provided more than 7,300 veterans with personalized support from IAVA’s Master’s level social workers.