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Sheila J.
Democrat TX 18

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  • Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act

    by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

    Posted on 2015-01-12

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    JACKSON LEE of texas in the house of representatives Monday, January 12, 2015 Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 203, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act, which will help stem the epidemic of veteran suicide.

    Tragically, an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide each day--more than 8,000 each year.

    Of the more than 2 million Americans who have served in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is estimated that one-third, roughly 600,000 men and women, have traumatic brain injury, PTSD or Depression.

    Mr. Speaker, combatting the epidemic of veteran suicide must be one of the nation's highest priorities.

    The bill before us is important to our nation and critically important to my home state of Texas, which has one of the highest rates of veteran suicide in the country.

    According to an analysis conducted by the Houston Chronicle, suicides among Texans under the age of 35 who had served in the military ``jumped from 47 in 2006 to 66 in 2009--an increase of 40 percent.'' According to that same analysis, ``last year, suicides made up nearly 25 percent of the deaths of Texans younger than 35 who served in the military. That percentage is more than twice the rate of suicide in the comparable civilian population.'' Mr. Speaker, H.R. 203 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.

    Our veterans deserve to have our support. These individuals put their lives on the line for our country to stay safe.

    Specifically, H.R. 203, which enjoys broad and deep bipartisan support: 1. Establishes a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning service members with accessing VA mental health care services.

    2. Requires the VA to create a one-stop, interactive website to serve as a centralized information source regarding all mental health services for veterans.

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

    Passing H.R. 203 is an essential first step in ensuring that our veterans are receiving the help and care they need.

    I strongly support this legislation and urge all Members to join me in voting to pass H.R. 203.


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