Senators aim to move quickly on veterans suicide prevention bill

The new leaders of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee are hoping to move quickly on a bill to help prevent suicides among military veterans.

“I’m sure that’ll be one of the issues that’s early on dealt with in the committee,” new Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) told reporters on Thursday.

{mosads}The legislation, dubbed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, has broad support and passed the House last year. But it was blocked in the upper chamber by then-Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who said it cost too much and duplicated other programs.

The move infuriated backers of the bill, which is named after a young Iraq veteran who took his own life.

The Veterans Affairs Department estimates that as many as 22 veterans commit suicide each day — more than 8,000 every year.

Isakson, who was ratified to be the new VA chairman on Wednesday, told reporters that the panel would come together for its organizational meeting the week of Jan. 19 and that the measure’s future could be brought up then.

“I don’t want to get into articles being written that something’s going to happen in two weeks but I think early on in our effort once we get the committee organized and moving forward that will be one of the first pieces of business that we do,” he said. Isakson added that he was “supportive” of the legislation.

On Wednesday morning, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said he expected his panel to take the legislation back up in February.

Miller, along with Democratic Reps. Tim Walz (Minn.) and Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), reintroduced the bill on Wednesday afternoon.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), the Senate panel’s new top Democrat, said he was “pleased the House is moving forward.”

“I’m very hopeful the Senate will as well in the same kind of expedited schedule,” he told reporters.

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