Aiming to reduce Veteran suicide, bipartisan law is helping improve mental health care for Veterans
Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (IL-08) today celebrated the one year anniversary of President Obama signing the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (the “Clay Hunt SAV”) Act into law to improve mental health care for Veterans and help reduce Veteran suicide. Congresswoman Duckworth, a combat Veteran and member of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced the bipartisan Clay Hunt SAV Act in Congress with Congressmen Tim Walz (MN-01) and Jeff Miller (FL-01), which was unanimously approved by both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.
“The unacceptably high number of Veterans lost to suicide makes it crystal clear that our nation has not done enough to care for the brave men and women we’ve sent into battle overseas,” said Congresswoman Duckworth. “While my injuries are more obvious, many of our troops are coming home with invisible wounds that also require care without stigma or judgment. I’m proud that one year after President Obama signed our Clay Hunt SAV Act into law, it is helping improve mental health services for Veterans. However, our work is not done. I will continue fighting on behalf of Veterans to provide our brave men and women with the care they earned by risking life and limb for our country.”
After the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimated that 22 American Veterans are lost to suicide each day, or more than 8,000 each year, Duckworth joined Reps. Walz and Miller to address this national crisis that is believed to have taken more American lives than have been lost in combat since 9/11.
The Clay Hunt SAV Act helps address the shortage of mental health care professionals at the VA through a student loan repayment program that helps recruit and retain psychiatrists. In addition to a new one-stop, interactive website to serve as a centralized source of information for all mental health services for Veterans, the law created a peer support and community outreach pilot program to help servicemembers transitioning to civilian life access VA mental health care services. The Clay Hunt SAV Act also improves accountability and care at the VA by requiring regular third-party evaluations of all mental health care and suicide prevention practices and programs at the VA to find out what is working and what needs improvement.
Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth is an Iraq War Veteran and former Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs. She served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years and was one of the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom, until her helicopter was hit by an RPG on November 12, 2004, and she lost her legs and partial use of her right arm before being awarded a Purple Heart. Duckworth spent the next year recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center where she quickly became an advocate for her fellow Soldiers and testified before Congress about caring for our Veterans and wounded warriors.