VA chairman: House could take up veterans suicide bill in February

Lawmakers could take up legislation to help prevent suicides among veterans as early as February, according to House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.)


“I would expect that we will probably have it done some time in February,” Miller told reporters following a conference meeting of GOP members.

The bill, known as the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, passed the House in the last weeks of the 113th Congress but was blocked in the upper chamber by then-Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Worries grow about political violence as midterms approach President Trump’s war on federal waste American patients face too many hurdles in regard to health-care access MORE (R-Okla.).

The now-retired fiscal hawk criticized its $22 million price tag and said it would duplicate existing programs at the Veterans Affairs Department.

The move enraged supporters of the bill, which is named after a young Iraq veteran who took his own life. Many vowed to bring the measure back in the new Congress.

Miller said he had breakfast on Wednesday with Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald along with Rep. Corrine BrownCorrine BrownFormer Florida rep sentenced to five years in prison for fraud, tax evasion Genuine veteran charities face a challenge beating the fakes Former Florida rep found guilty of tax evasion, fraud MORE (Fla.), the House panel’s top Democrat, and their counterparts, Sens. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonSenators say they've reached deal on Puerto Rico aid Klobuchar: Trump plan doesn't deal with 'comprehensive immigration issue' Pence, McConnell eulogize Sen. Richard Lugar MORE (R-Ga.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)

The lawmakers told McDonald “we were going to bring it up very quickly,” he added.

“It is an important piece of legislation. Is it going to solve the problem? No. But it will help solve the problem,” said Miller.

The VA estimates that as many as 22 veterans commit suicide each day, which would lead to more than 8,000 veteran suicides every year.

Miller, who has been highly critical of the VA in the wake of last year’s scandal over long patient wait times, described his relationship with McDonald as “very good.”

He said the former Procter & Gamble CEO is “making great strides” in changing the culture at the beleaguered agency but still has a “long way to go.”

Miller added that he was “looking forward to a session of Congress working together."

"We’ll have disagreements, I’m sure, but we’ll work them out,” he said.