Murkowski Votes for Bill to Improve Veteran Mental Health Care

Senator Proud to Send Legislation to Fight “Home Front Battle” to President

Senator Lisa Murkowski today was proud to cast her vote for the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, a House of Representatives-passed bill mirroring legislation she co-sponsored in the Senate (S.167), offering several critical measures to improve mental health care and suicide prevention resources for America’s veterans.  The bill passed the Senate today 99-0, and heads directly to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

The bill would require a third-party evaluation of existing suicide prevention programs at the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to gauge their effectiveness and make recommendations for consolidation, elimination, or improvement. The legislation 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.

“We lose more men and women in uniform most days on American soil than on the frontlines, 22 veterans a day, which is a shocking and unacceptable statistic that we must fight with the same vigor we fight the enemy,” said Murkowski.  “It is one thing to say ‘Thank you for your service,’ but it’s far more important to follow through on that gratitude with actions that provide them the tools they need as they face a sometimes-jarring transition back to ‘normal life,’ this internal home front battle 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.  She held a listening session in the Mat-Su last summer and heard about the difficulties many veterans have in acquiring care.  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, efforts she advocated for in the previous Congress.

Of Note: This is the 3rd major bill that has passed the Senate on a bipartisan basis in the first 30 days of the 114th Congress: the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, the Keystone XL pipeline bill, and the Clay Hunt bill.