WASHINGTON – Right now, about 8,000 veterans commit suicide each year and it’s a number that continues to rise. On a daily basis, that’s about 22 deaths a day.
“We have a sacred trust as a country when we send our men and women overseas and put them in harm’s way. They have the right when they come back to know that their country stands with them,” said Michigan Senator Gary Peters (D), who’s supporting the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Bill that’s passed both chambers of Congress.
It’s Legislation that calls for the Department of Veterans Affairs to evaluate all VA mental health care and suicide prevention practices, to create a website with information for VA mental health services, and introduce a peer support program designed to help service members who are leaving the military get access to mental health care services.
The bill is named after a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and later took his own life in 2011.
It’s important to Peters because he served in the US Navy reserve.
“The key component is outreach to make sure that veterans that have now left service and are likely suffering in solitude to let them know that there is help,” he said.
The bill is also aimed at stopping a shortage of mental health care experts by allowing the VA to recruit doctors through a student loan repayment pilot program. Senator Rob Portman weighed in saying the high rate of veteran suicides is unacceptable.
The bill has support for Ohio Senator Rob Portman (R).
“We would like to go even further than this bill but this is a good start for us to ensure that when people come home they are well cared for, that we recognize the signs of depression, and that we takes steps to address it,” he said.
Clay Hunt’s family is expected to attend the bill signing with President Obama.