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Poised for Passage: Veterans Suicide Prevention Act

PHOTO: U.S. Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota authored the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, with a goal of reducing the suicide rate among U.S. military veterans. Photo courtesy of Rep. Walz office.
PHOTO: U.S. Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota authored the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, with a goal of reducing the suicide rate among U.S. military veterans. Photo courtesy of Rep. Walz office.
February 2, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The U.S. Senate is expected to approve legislation this afternoon that seeks to prevent suicide among military veterans through early intervention, expanded treatment and peer support.

The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act has already won unanimous approval in the U.S. House, where its sponsor is Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota.

"I think it's needed because the statistics on our warriors coming home and suicide are striking, about 22 a day,” Walz says. “And I think it's the moral responsibility of this nation to do all we can, and we've identified what we think are gaps and ways that we might possibly improve that."

Walz spent 24 years in the Army National Guard and is the highest-ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress.

The bill's namesake, Clay Hunt, was a Marine Corps veteran who struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and committed suicide in 2011 at the age of 28.

Walz says the act would require a review of all Veterans Administration programs and practices, along with the creation of a centralized source of information on all of its mental health services for veterans.

The legislation also seeks to increase capacity by addressing the shortage of mental health professionals.

"Doing some student loan repayments for some commitments to work at the VA for a couple of years by some of these mental health professionals – and the folks who look at this think it's going to make a difference,” Walz stresses. “At least, it's a start."


John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN