Bustos continues work to cut down on epidemic of veteran suicide

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) continued her work to cut down on the epidemic of veteran suicide by voting for the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act. This bipartisan bill - named in honor of Marine Corporal Clay Hunt, an Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran who was awarded the Purple Heart and was a dedicated suicide prevention advocate who tragically took his own life – 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. An estimated 22 veterans commit suicide each day – more than 8,000 each year.

“Providing support for returning service members and their families will always be a top priority for me,” said Congresswoman Cheri Bustos. “The bipartisan bill I was proud to vote for today takes important steps to stem the epidemic of veteran suicide. I will continue working across the aisle with my colleagues in Congress and veteran advocates to ensure that all veterans receive the mental health care they have earned and deserve.”

This bipartisan bill:

· Establishes a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning service members 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 yearly evaluations – with interim reports due in the first two years and a final report due the third year and every year after – conducted by a third party, of all mental health care and suicide prevention practices and programs at the VA to find out what is working and what’s not working and to make recommendations to improve care.

This bill was introduced by Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN), the highest ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress, and co-authored by Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a Purple Heart recipient, Iraq War veteran, and member of the Army National Guard. The bill also has the support of Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) including the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).

During her tenure in Congress, Bustos has made our nation’s veterans a top priority and has fought to improve their benefits, ensure greater access to care and better doctors, curb unemployment and homelessness and reduce the VA claims backlog.