Congressman Garamendi Votes to Prevent Veteran Suicides
WASHINGTON, DC - Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, yesterday voted for the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act, H.R. 5059, important legislation to stem the epidemic of veteran suicide. The bill passed the House of Representatives and now moves to the Senate for consideration.
An estimated 22 veterans commit suicide each day – more than 8,000 each 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 men and women, have traumatic brain injury, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and/or depression.
“The 3rd District has one of the largest veteran communities in the nation, and I’ve talked with hundreds of veterans and military family members whose lives have been impacted by the unseen scars of combat,” Garamendi said. “Many of our brave troops have experienced brain trauma and developed mental health illnesses while serving our nation on the battlefield. This has become a major public health crisis leading to homelessness, domestic problems, substance abuse, and suicide. We need to do everything we can to make our veterans whole again when they come home. Central to this effort must be a sustained focus on suicide prevention. I’m proud to support the SAV Act, which constitutes a significant step toward addressing this problem.”
Named in honor of Marine Corporal Clay Hunt, an Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran who was awarded the Purple Heart and dedicated suicide prevention advocate who tragically took his own life – this bill expands access to mental health services for our nation’s veterans and increases the capacity and efficiency of VA care to deal with the more than one million veterans returning from war.
- Establishes a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning servicemembers with accessing VA mental health care services.
- Requires the VA to create a one-stop, interactive website to serve as a centralized information source regarding all mental health services for veterans.
- Takes steps to address the shortage of mental health care professionals by authorizing the VA to conduct a student loan repayment pilot program aimed at recruiting and retaining psychiatrists.
- Requires a yearly evaluation, conducted by a third party, of all mental health care and suicide prevention practices and programs at the DOD and VA to find out what is working and what’s not working and to make recommendations to improve care.
- Authorizes a GAO report on the transition of care for PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI) between the DOD and VA.
The SAV Act has the support of Veterans Service Organizations including the Military Officers Association of America and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Congressman Garamendi represents California’s 3rd Congressional District, including the Beale and Travis Air Force Bases communities and thousands of veterans.