Walz to Attend White House Ceremony When President Signs Bipartisan Clay Hunt SAV Act into Law
Walz’s legislation, which seeks to improve mental health care for veterans, becomes law on February 12
Washington, DC [2/11/15] – Representative Tim Walz (D-MN) will attend the White House ceremony on Thursday, February 12 when President Obama signs Walz’s bipartisan Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (Clay Hunt SAV) Act into law. The law passed the House of Representatives in January by a unanimous vote of 403 – 0 and the Senate by a vote of 99 – 0.
The bill came close to passing in the 113th Congress but was held up due to opposition from one Senator, Tom Coburn from Oklahoma, who has since retired.
“It’s appropriate that this bill will be signed into law on President Lincoln’s birthday. As Lincoln said during his second inaugural address, we must always remember our solemn obligation to care for those ‘who shall have borne the battle.’ This bill takes an important step forward to fulfill this responsibility, and, after pushing this legislation for the past year, I’m honored and humbled to be present when the President signs it into law,” said Walz, the highest ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress. “It should be remembered, however, that our work is not done. While the Clay Hunt SAV Act takes an important first step towards improving mental health care at the VA, it will not immediately fix the problem, nor will it completely solve it. I’m not sure if any legislation can do that, but if we can save one parent from having to bury their child, one son from losing his mother, or one sister from losing her brother, it’s worth trying with all our might. Moving forward, we must build upon its passage and continue to find ways to improve mental health care for our veterans and nation as a whole.”
A 2012 study from the Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that 22 veterans are lost each day to suicide. That’s over 150 veteran suicides per week, over 600 per month, and over 8,000 per year. To put these staggering numbers in perspective, it is estimated that more veterans take their own lives each year than have been Killed in Action since 9/11.
The Clay Hunt SAV Act seeks to quell this growing epidemic by:
Increasing Access to Mental Health Care and Capacity at VA to Meet Demand
- Requires the VA to create a one-stop, interactive website to serve as a centralized source of information regarding all VA mental health services for veterans.
- Addresses 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.
Improving the Quality of Care and Boosting Accountability at VA
- Requires evaluations of all mental health care and suicide prevention practices and programs at the VA to find out what’s working and what’s not working and make recommendations to improve care.
Developing a Community Support System for Veterans
- Establishes a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning Servicemembers with accessing VA mental health care services.
Representative Tim Walz spent 24 years in the Army National Guard and is the highest ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress. He serves on the Armed Services Committee, the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and the Agriculture Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.