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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

House Passes Veterans’ Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Bill

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On Monday, the House passed legislation aimed at preventing veterans’ suicide. The legislation allows the Veterans’ Administration to team with nonprofits focused on promoting mental health to carry out its suicide prevention programs. Additionally, the legislation establishes a three-year pilot program to pay for psychiatrists’ education if they work at the VA for at least two years.

The measure, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, had strong support in last Congress but was blocked from a vote in the Senate by now-retired Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK). Senator Coburn said in a statement that the goals of the bill were already funded through programs within the VA. “I’m objecting to this bill because it actually throws away money,” he said in December. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) argued that the legislation would ensure accountability and progress from the VA in curbing the growing suicide epidemic.

“The last several years have seen significant increases in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs mental health and suicide prevention budget, its staff and its programs. However, we have not seen a corresponding decrease in the number of our nation’s heroes who take their own lives,” Miller said. “We have got to do more to help these veterans.”

The legislation passed the House by a vote of 403-0 and now heads to the Senate where it is expected to be approved easily. The National Council supports legislation that increases veterans’ access to mental health treatment and looks forward to continuing our efforts to promote mental health and suicide prevention. Be sure to stay tuned to Capitol Connector for more information.