Rep. Walz reintroduces bill to prevent veteran suicides
(THE MED CITY BEAT) - Rep. Tim Walz reintroduced a bill in Congress this week aimed at preventing veteran suicides.
The Clay Hunt SAV Act passed the House last session with bipartisan support, but was shot down in the Senate by former Sen. Tom Coburn. However, the Oklahoma Republican retired last year and Walz hopes the bill will reach Pres. Obama's desk without any delays this time around.
"While no piece of legislation will completely end this heartbreaking epidemic, we cannot stand idly by while more of our heroes struggle with the invisible wounds of war," said Walz, a Democrat representing Minnesota's First District. "We must take action, and I continue to believe that this bipartisan bill is a step in the right direction."
The $22 million bill would require the Pentagon and the VA to submit to independent reviews of their suicide prevention programs. It would also established a website to provide information on mental health services available to veterans and offer financial incentives to psychiatrists who agree to work for the VA.
The measure is named for Clay Hunt, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran from Houston who took his own life in 2011. The bill is supported by several veterans groups, including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
An estimated 22 veterans take their life each day, the equivalent of a suicide every 65 minutes. A recent report by News21, an investigative multimedia program for journalism students, found the suicide rate for veterans increased an average of 2.6 percent a year from 2005 to 2011. That's more than double the rate of increase for civilian suicide.
Walz, the highest ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress, was elected to his fifth consecutive term in office this past November.