Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Suicide prevention bill, spearheaded by IAVA, reintroduced by Sens. McCain and Blumenthal

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following yesterday:

Gretchen Andersen
Press Secretary
Tel: 212-982-9699

Washington, D.C. (January 13, 2015) – Today, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) reintroduced the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act, significant legislation that will help combat veteran suicide and improve access to quality mental health care. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) spearheaded the creation of the bill and praised the Senators for standing with the veteran community.

The news comes one day after the U.S. House unanimously passed the House version of the measure, H.R. 203, sponsored by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) and Reps. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and one month after then Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) single-handedly blocked final passage of the bill in spite of the consent of all 99 of his colleagues.

“IAVA applauds Senator McCain and Senator Blumenthal for their bipartisanship and relentless commitment to veterans. The rapid re-introduction of the SAV Act in this new Congress shows that our community’s demands for comprehensive, bold mental health care reforms that will combat veteran suicide have been heard loud and clear by members of Congress,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “After Sen. Coburn blocked the Clay Hunt SAV Act as his final act as a member of the Senate, our members were galvanized like never before in support of this much-needed legislation. We’re thankful that the 114th 

Congress is moving to get this bill on their agenda and that our partners in the veteran community and groups like the American Psychiatric Association are all working together to get this bill to the president’s desk. This is a no nonsense, bipartisan bill that the Senate must approve quickly to combat the tragedy of 22 veterans dying by suicide each day.”

“It is unacceptable that an estimated 22 American veterans commit suicide every day,” said Senator McCain. “This bill would consolidate and improve existing mental health programs, provide new incentives to attract more psychiatrists to treat veterans through the VA, and enhance resources for transitioning veterans, especially combat veterans. Our nation has a long way to go to decrease the rate of suicide among our returning service members, but this bill is an important step toward improving the care we provide to the men and women who have sacrificed for all of us.”

“I am proud to join with Senator McCain today to reintroduce the Clay Hunt SAV Act as my first piece of legislation this Congress,” said Senator Blumenthal. “The Senate should act today to honor all veterans with this legislation, which provides one more opportunity to deliver help –and hope – to heroes who need and deserve it. Every day in the United States, 22 veterans succumb to suicide – losing their personal battle to invisible wounds of war. The Clay Hunt SAV Act is named for a single brave veteran who lost that battle. By improving and modernizing suicide prevention programs available, it honors the memory of every serviceman and woman who has struggled with mental health issues.”

To date, 18 members of the Senate have signed on to the bipartisan bill:

– Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)
– Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.)
– Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)
– Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.)
– Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.)
– Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.)
– Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
– Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)
– Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii)
– Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
– Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)
– Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.)
– Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)
– Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
– Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)
– Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
– Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)
– Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)

To support its legislative efforts, IAVA launched a petition in December after Sen. Coburn blocked the Clay Hunt SAV Act. To date, the grassroots petition currently includes more than 137,000 signatures of IAVA members and supporters. Click here to learn more.

Note to media: Email or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has nearly 300,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.