After eight years in the wilderness, Senate Republicans’ first new legislation as a majority will be a non-partisan effort to address suicide prevention among veterans. The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act unanimously passed the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs chaired by Senator Isakson after 403-0 passage in the House of Representatives.
Named after a Marine veteran who died by suicide after serving in Iraq and being diagnosed with PTSD, the bill is designed to reduce the bureaucratic burden that forced Corporal Hunt to wait months for an appointment with a VA psychiatrist. It will create peer support pilot programs, study paying off the student-debt of psychiatry students to entice them to work for the VA, and require annual accounting of the effectiveness of VA psychiatric services. The bill failed in the Senate last year after former Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) placed a hold on it.
From Senator Isakson:
I am pleased the full Senate is acting quickly on this emergency legislation following VA Committee passage last week. When you have 8,000 veterans a year committing suicide – which is more veterans than have died in all of Iraq and all of Afghanistan since we’ve been fighting – then you have a serious problem. This legislation is an important step toward providing better access to mental health resources for our veterans.
Senator Isakson is the only senator to chair two committees, indicating that we can expect to see his name attached to legislation frequently. Given last year’s revelations about the VA and the recent attention brought to veterans’ mental health by the tragic death of Chris Kyle, this legislation could not be better timed or better intended.