WH pushes to help prevent veteran suicides

The White House on Wednesday pressed the Senate to adopt a House bill designed to help bolster suicide prevention programs for military veterans.

Press secretary Josh Earnest said the administration was “encouraged” that the House passed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, and urged the Senate “to do the same to support our veterans.” 

The bill, named after a Marine who committed suicide after a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder following tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, would require a third party to conduct an annual evaluation of suicide prevention programs at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Pentagon. 

The bill would also create a pilot program that pays psychiatrists’ student loans if they work at the VA for two years, and frees the agency up to work more with mental health nonprofits.

“This is a crucial issue and we owe it to our veterans to do everything we can to give them the support and resources they need,” Earnest said. “Ensuring veterans have access to timely and effective mental health care is a top priority. This bill moves us a step in the right direction, and will complement the Administration’s efforts, including the President’s Executive Actions to improve mental health care for service members, veterans, and their families.”

The president has repeatedly said that his administration wants to step up efforts to veterans and soldiers suffering from mental health issues in the aftermath of a series of mass shootings on military bases.

In April, Obama said the nation “can do more to help counsel those with mental health issues” and “to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are having such deep difficulties” at a memorial service for soldiers killed in a shooting at Ft. Hood.

Three soldiers were killed and another 16 were injured by an Army truck driver who then took his own life during a mass shooting at the base. That tragedy came five years after an Army psychiatrist killed 12 and injured 31 others at the base.

“As Commander-in-Chief, I’m determined that we will continue to step up our efforts — to reach our troops and veterans who are hurting, to deliver to them the care that they need, and to make sure we never stigmatize those who have the courage to seek help,” Obama said.


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