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Military Connection: Clay Hunt SAV Act on to Senate Floor

Senate Floor

By Debbie Gregory.

Last week, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee voted to send legislation, aimed to combat the high rate of suicide among Veterans, to the Senate floor.

The committee’s play comes just over a week after the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act was reintroduced in the Senate, after overwhelmingly passing in the House twice within a month’s time.

The Clay Hunt SAV Act was named for a 28 year-old Marine Corps Veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and committed suicide in 2011.

The heavily publicized bill was headed for easy passage in December, 2014, when it failed due to a procedural maneuver by then-Senator Tom Coburn, who has since retired.  Coburn, who claimed that the bill merely duplicated existing VA programs and did not offer enough new resources for its $22 million price tag, essentially killed the bill with a legislative hold that prevented a Senate vote.

Several Veterans advocacy groups and military associations vowed to reintroduce the Clay Hunt SAV Act as soon as the new Congress convened in January, 2015.

And true to their word, the Clay Hunt SAV Act of 2015 was introduced in the House as H.R. 203 on January 7, 2015, virtually unchanged from the measure that failed just days prior. The 2015 bill was passed unanimously in the House on January 12th, and returned to the Senate the next day. So far, there appears to be no opposition to the bill.

On January 21st, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee agreed to send the Clay Hunt SAV Act of 2015 to the Senate’s calendar under General Orders. The Senate could vote on the bill as early as this week.

There are over 8,000 Veteran suicides each year, which averages out to approximately 22 suicides each day.  Currently, the Clay Hunt SAV Act is the leading measure on the table for combating these numbers. Be sure to track this measure and how your elected leaders vote on it by frequenting MilitaryConnection.com and www.Congress.gov.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Veteran Suicide Prevention Bill Back in Senate

Clay Hunt

For the second time in just over a month, legislation titled “The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act” has been overwhelmingly passed in the House and is once again on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

In December, 2014, the Clay Hunt SAV Act H.R. 5059 unanimously passed in the House and was sent to the Senate, only to be blocked by out-going Oklahoma Senator, Dr. Tom Coburn. Coburn, who retired after the conclusion of Congress’ final 2014 session,  has been blamed for single-handedly vanquishing the bill. But there are those who believe that the retiring senator, without voters to answer to for re-election, merely took a hit for others in the Senate.

On January 12, 2015, the Clay Hunt SAV Act, named for a Marine Veteran who committed suicide in 2011, was again unanimously passed in the House, this time as H.R. 203. The Clay Hunt SAV Act 2015 is virtually unchanged from its predecessor, which failed in the Senate less than one month ago.

The act, championed by Veteran groups such as the American Legion, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is viewed as legislation that would reduce the number of military and Veteran suicides, and improve access to quality mental healthcare for Veterans.

The $22 million legislation calls for an annual review of established DOD and VA suicide prevention programs in order to streamline the most effective practices. The bill also facilitates the VA’s partnering with mental health nonprofits, creates a website to consolidate the VA’s newly combined mental health resources, and expands established peer support networks. The Clay Hunt SAV Act  also allows the VA to recruit and retain psychiatrists by offering a student loan repayment incentive, up to $120,000, for mental health specialists that go to work for the VA.

With Dr. Coburn no longer in the Senate, supporters of the bill believe that the Clay Hunt SAV Act will pass this time around. Something must be done to reduce, and hopefully eliminate, the high rate of military and Veteran suicides, which have been estimated as high as 22 per day. Will others in this year’s Senate share Dr. Coburn’s sentiment on the legislation and its cost versus potential to effect change? We’ll just have to wait and watch the drama on Capitol Hill unfold.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Veteran Suicide Prevention Bill Back in Senate: By Debbie Gregory