Rep. Lipinski Helps Pass Veterans' Suicide Prevention Bill

Last night Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) helped pass in the U.S. House of Representatives the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act.  Named in honor of Marine Corporal Clay Hunt, an Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran who was awarded the Purple Heart and tragically took his own life, the bill expands access to mental health services for our nation’s veterans and increases the capacity and efficiency of VA care to deal with the more than one million veterans returning from war.

“The suicide rate among our brave veterans remains alarmingly high,” said Rep. Lipinski.  “After their service and sacrifice for us, it is imperative that we do all we can as a nation to help them with both their physical and mental scars, no matter how long it takes.  This bill is another step towards ensuring that no one gets left behind, abroad or at home.”

The bill creates a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning service members with accessing VA mental health care services.  It also 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.  In addition, the bill establishes an interactive website to serve as a centralized information source regarding all mental health services for veterans, and requires yearly evaluations 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.

An estimated 22 veterans commit suicide each day – more than 8,000 each year.  Of the more than 2 million Americans who have served in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is estimated that one-third, roughly 600,000 men and women, have traumatic brain injury, PTSD, or depression.

This bill is supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), and the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA).

The bill now moves to the Senate.

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