Suicides by U. S. military veterans have reportedly reached epidemic proportions, claiming an average of 22 lives per day. Though some mental health programs and specifically suicide prevention programs are in place, they are obviously somehow failing our veterans at an alarming rate.
Attempting to prevent as many veteran suicides as possible through a targeted program, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5059, the Clay Hunt SAV Act, named for Clay Hunt, a Houston veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who committed suicide in 2011. Unfortunately, H.R. 5059 had to get by Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn in order to pass in the Senate and Coburn single-handedly defeated the measure.
At an estimated cost of $22 million, H.R. 5059 would have provided additional suicide prevention efforts for veterans by: requiring the Secretary of Veteran Affairs and the Secretary of Defense to arrange yearly independent evaluations of the Veterans’ Administration and the Department of Defense mental healthcare and suicide prevention programs; financially attracting and adding more psychiatrists to Veterans Administration facilities; establishing and maintaining a web site providing information on available mental health services for veterans; and creating a pilot program assisting veterans in their transitions from active duty to civilian life.
Senator Coburn maintains that H. R. 5059: would not accomplish its goal of saving veterans; duplicates existing programs; should be abandoned in favor of holding the Department of Veterans Affairs accountable for its failures in serving veterans.
In response to Senator Coburn’s blockage of H.R.5059, Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO of “Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America,” simply stated: “This is why people hate Washington.”
Due to Senator Coburn’s upcoming retirement in January 2015, Senator Richard Blumenthal stated that he will reintroduce the bill in the new 2015 Congress if it fails to pass during this Congressional term.
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