Murkowski Introduces Bill to Improve Vets Mental Health Care

Senator Joins Bipartisan Group to Fight the “Home Front War” Against Depression, Suicide

Senator Lisa Murkowski today co-sponsored The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Bill of 2014 – bipartisan legislation introduced this afternoon to offer several critical measures to improve mental health care and suicide prevention resources for American men and women in uniform. The bill would require a third-party evaluation of existing suicide prevention programs at the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to gauge their effectiveness and make recommendations for consolidation, elimination, or improvement.

It would also provide for a new website that offers veterans information regarding available mental healthcare services; create a pilot loan repayment program for VA psychiatrists; and improve the exchange of training, best practices, and other resources among the VA, Veteran Service Organizations (VSO), and non-profit mental health organizations to enhance collaboration of suicide prevention efforts.  Senator Murkowski joined other original co-sponsors Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Richard Burr (R-NC), Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) in introducing the legislation this afternoon.

“An estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day, a shocking and unacceptable reality,” said Senator Murkowski with her co-sponsors Senators John McCain, Blumenthal, Blunt, Burr and Manchin. “We are proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to improve and modernize the suicide prevention programs and resources available to our fighting men and women. When enacted, this bill will provide additional resources for veterans who suffer from mental health disorders that place them at higher risk of suicide, so that we can bolster our efforts in the home front war against depression and suicide.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski has made serving Alaska’s and America’s soldiers returning home a core focus of her legislative agenda – particularly their acute medical and mental health needs.  Many of the priorities she has drafted into legislation are reflected in today’s legislation, including S.2357 The Department of Defense Suicide Tracking Act and S. 2182, the Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act.

The bill was named for Clay Hunt, a Marine veteran who committed suicide in March 2011 at the age of 28. Clay enlisted in the Marine Corps in May 2005 and deployed to Anbar Province, near Fallujah, in January 2007. He was shot in the wrist by a sniper’s bullet that barely missed his head, earning him a Purple Heart. Clay recuperated at Twenty Nine Palms, CA and then graduated from Marine Corps Scout Sniper School in March 2008. He redeployed to southern Afghanistan a few weeks later. His unit returned in late October of 2008 and he was honorably discharged from the Marines in April 2009. After returning home, Clay suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and struggled with inadequate care at his local VA hospital before taking his own life.