According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, a veteran commits suicide every 65 minutes, on average.
On Feb. 3, the senate unanimously voted to approve a bill aimed at preventing military suicides.
The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, named for a Marine Corps veteran who committed suicide after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, was approved 99-0. The only absent senator was Sen. Mark Kirk, who was unable to vote due to flight problems in Chicago.
The legislation, which was passed unanimously in the House of Representatives in January, will now head to President Barack Obama’s desk.
During a speech the day before the bill passed, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson said the bill would address the injuries that may not be immediately obvious, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. According to The Hill, he also said the bill’s $24 million price tag would be covered by the VA’s internal funds.
The money would go towards creating a website detailing mental healthcare services and starting a program to repay student loan debt for those who study psychiatry and commit to working for the VA.
Hunt’s mother, Susan Selke, said in a statement put out by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, “We are extremely grateful for the Senate passing this bill and all those who have worked so hard on it. While we are a little bittersweet, because it is too late for our son, Clay, we are thankful knowing that this bill will save many lives.”
Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA CEO and founder, said, “For too long the crisis of veteran suicide has been hidden in the shadows. This bill gives many veterans the new hope they so desperately need and demonstrates that our leaders are willing to give veterans the care they deserve.”
“We call on President Obama to demonstrate his commitment to our veterans with a public signing ceremony."