Bustos Applauds Step Forward In Ending Epidemic Of Veteran Suicide

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) applauded the Senate’s passage of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act, an effort to end the epidemic of Veteran suicide that passed the House last month and is now on its way to the President’s desk for his signature.

“22 attempted Veteran suicides every day is 22 too many,” said Congresswoman Cheri Bustos. “I am glad that the bipartisan bill I voted for last month that takes steps to stem this deadly epidemic is now on its way to President Obama’s desk for his approval. I will continue working across the aisle with my colleagues in Congress and Veteran advocates to ensure that all Veterans receive the support and mental health care they need.”

This bipartisan bill – named in honor of Marine Corporal Clay Hunt, an Iraq and Afghanistan War Veteran who was awarded the Purple Heart and was a dedicated suicide prevention advocate who tragically took his own life – expands access to mental health services for our nation’s Veterans and increases the capacity and efficiency of the VA care to deal with the more than one million Veterans returning from war. An estimated 22 Veterans commit suicide each day – more than 8,000 each year.

This bipartisan bill:

  • Establishes a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning service members with accessing VA mental health care services.
  • Requires the VA to create a one-stop, interactive website to serve as a centralized information source regarding all mental health services for Veterans.
  • Takes steps to address 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.
  • Requires yearly evaluations – with interim reports due in the first two years and a final report due the third year and every year after – conducted by a third party, of all mental health care and suicide prevention practices and programs at the VA to find out what is working and what’s not working and to make recommendations to improve care.

This bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN), the highest ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress, and co-authored by Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a Purple Heart recipient, Iraq War Veteran, and member of the Army National Guard. The bill also has the support of Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) including the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).

During her tenure in Congress, Bustos has made our nation’s Veterans a top priority and has fought to improve their benefits, ensure greater access to care and better doctors, curb unemployment and homelessness and reduce the VA claims backlog.