November 18, 2014

Manchin, Bipartisan Group of Senators Aim to Improve Mental Health Care for Veterans and Service Members

The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Bill would offer critical measures to improve mental health care and suicide prevention resources

Washington, D.C. –U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), John McCain (R-AZ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Richard Burr (R-NC), Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today introduced The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Bill of 2014 to improve mental health care and suicide prevention resources for veterans and service members.

The bill would require a third-party evaluation of the existing suicide prevention programs at the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to measure effectiveness and make consolidation, elimination or improvement recommendations. The legislation would also provide for a new website that would offer veterans information on 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 Manchin, McCain, Blumenthal, Burr, Blunt and Murkowski. “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.”

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) also praised the introduction of The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Bill of 2014.

“IAVA thanks the Senate leaders for taking initiative on this vital issue for the veteran community,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of IAVA. “Combating veteran suicide has been a top priority for IAVA this year. When passed, this bill will ensure our veterans receive the top quality mental healthcare they deserve, most specifically by implementing evaluation programs to assess the success of mental health and suicide prevention programs at DoD and the VA. Reversing the suicide trend among veterans requires more than one helping hand. This bill empowers the VA to collaborate with VSOs and nonprofit mental health organizations to combat veteran suicide. We urge Congress to move quickly on this legislation and put their partisanship aside. Lives are on the line. IAVA expects to see the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act receive expedited consideration and unanimous support in the full Senate very soon.”

To read the text of the legislation, please click here