President Obama signed into law the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) bill in a ceremony at the White House on February 12, 2016. The bill not only had bipartisan support as it made its way through the House and the Senate, it passed unanimously in both chambers. The Act, named after a veteran who died by suicide in 2011 after deploying to both Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008 and being honorably discharged from the Marines in 2009, seeks to address deficiencies in the VA service system that led to his death. Suffering from both PTSD and survivor’s guilt, Clay encountered numerous obstacles and significant barriers in obtaining both treatment for his mental health issues and an accurate disability rating from the VA. Five weeks after his death, and 18 months after he appealed a 30% disability rating, the VA changed his disability rating to 100%.
The intent of the Act, to prevent military and veteran suicides and increase access to mental health services, is to be accomplished by:
- Creation of a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning military service members and a one-stop, interactive resource website.
- Creation of a pilot program to repay the loan debt of psychiatry students so it is easier to recruit them to work at the VA.
- Boosting the accountability of mental health care services by requiring an annual evaluation of VA mental health and suicide-prevention programs.
To learn more, check out the following sites:
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: http://iava.org/savact/