Congressman Lowenthal Applauds Unanimous House Action To Help Address And Prevent Veteran Suicides
"One veteran lost to suicide is one veteran too many," Congressman Lowenthal said. "This bipartisan legislation provides our heroes the care and support they have earned and deserve to overcome mental health challenges, traumatic brain injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorder. I was proud to support this legislation to ensure our nation stands behind our brave veterans with compassion and dedication every day."
Twenty-two veterans commit suicide daily – more than 8,000 every 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 women and men, have traumatic brain injury, PTSD or depression.
The SAV Act, H.R. 203, will establish a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning service members with accessing VA mental health care services. To ease access to services, the bill will require the VA to create a one-stop, interactive website to serve as a centralized source of information regarding all mental health services for veterans. A student loan repayment pilot program, aimed at recruiting and retaining psychiatrists, is included in the legislation and will help address the shortage of mental health care professionals. To improve care, the legislation will require an annual, third-party evaluation of all mental health care and suicide prevention practices and programs at the VA to find out what's working and what's not.
The bill was introduced by Representative Tim Walz (D-MN), the highest ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress and co-authored by Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Committee Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Representative Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a Purple Heart recipient, Iraq War veteran, and member of the Army National Guard.
The SAV Act is named in honor of a late Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran and noted suicide prevention advocate, Clay Hunt, who committed suicide on March 31, 2011.
"The SAV Act is another step toward ensuring our nation's veterans have the support they need by expanding access to and improving the effectiveness of mental health care for our veterans," Congressman Lowenthal said.