11.17.14

Senators Burr, McCain, Blumenthal, Blunt, Murkowski and Manchin Introduce The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), John McCain (R-AZ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) today introduced The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, legislation that offers several critical measures that would improve mental health care and suicide prevention resources for American service members. The bill would require a third-party evaluation of existing suicide prevention programs at the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to gauge their effectiveness and make recommendations for consolidation, elimination, or improvement. It would also provide for a new website that offers veterans information regarding available mental healthcare services; create a pilot loan repayment program for VA psychiatrists; and improve the exchange of training, best practices, and other resources among the VA, Veteran Service Organizations (VSO), and non-profit mental health organizations to enhance collaboration of suicide prevention efforts.

“An estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day, a shocking and unacceptable reality,” said Senators Burr, McCain, Blumenthal, Blunt, Murkowski and Manchin. “We are proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to improve and modernize the suicide prevention programs and resources available to our fighting men and women. When enacted, this bill will provide additional resources for veterans who suffer from mental health disorders that place them at higher risk of suicide. It will ensure that existing suicide prevention programs are reviewed to determine which ones work and get rid of those that don’t, improve collaboration between the Department of Veterans Affairs and Veterans Service Organizations, and provide incentives to attract more psychiatrists to treat veterans through the VA. Our nation has a long way to go to decrease the rate of suicide among our veterans and we must do much better in fulfilling our responsibilities to care for those who have risked everything on behalf of their fellow Americans.”

The bill was named for Clay Hunt, a Marine veteran who committed suicide in March 2011 at the age of 28. Clay enlisted in the Marine Corps in May 2005 and deployed to Anbar Province, near Fallujah, in January 2007. He was shot in the wrist by a sniper’s bullet that barely missed his head, earning him a Purple Heart. Clay recuperated at Twenty Nine Palms, CA and then graduated from Marine Corps Scout Sniper School in March 2008. He redeployed to southern Afghanistan a few weeks later. His unit returned in late October of 2008 and he was honorably discharged from the Marines in April 2009. After returning home, Clay suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for many years and struggled with inadequate care at his local VA hospital before taking his own life.

The text of the legislation is here.  

The legislation is supported by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of American (IAVA).