Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act to be Signed into Law by President Obama Thursday


In a rare convergence of human decency and common sense, Congress has passed a bill and President Obama will sign it. H.R. 203, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act (Clay Hunt SAV Act), introduced by Rep. Timothy J. Waltz (D-MN), is named for a Marine Corps veteran and sniper who took his own life in 2011, after having served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He was just one of the estimated 8,000 veterans who commit suicide each year, at the shocking rate of some 22 per day.

In a press release yesterday, Speaker of the House John Boehner’s office told Clay Hunt’s story:

Clay Hunt was a Marine veteran who served in Iraq, where he was awarded a Purple Heart, and later on redeployed to Afghanistan. After returning home, he dedicated his life to helping others put their lives back together – volunteering in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and working with fellow veterans dealing with the psychological and physical wounds of war. Like many veterans, Clay struggled with the invisible wounds of war, and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. And despite working to address his PTSD and depression head on, he was faced with inadequate resources and care. At age 28, Clay took his own life.

Tragically, Clay’s story is all too common. Veterans’ suicides are occurring at a rate of 22 per day. As Clay’s mother, Susan Selke said, “Not one more veteran should have to go through what Clay went through.”

Clay Hunt
Clay Hunt

The House approved H.R. 203 on January 12 on a 403-0 vote. The bill passed the Senate on February 3 by a 99-0 vote, after being derailed last year by a single vote, that of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) who objected it would add $22 million to federal spending.

Having expressed strong support for the Clay Hunt Act, President Obama will sign the bill into law Thursday, reports The Hill, in a public signing ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

In its press release, Boehner’s office reported that Clay Hunt’s parents, Susan and Richard Selke, “and other House and Senate leaders on veterans’ issues” would be present when he signed H.R. 203:

This important legislation will help prevent suicides by veterans. As explained in the Speaker’s press release, it will:

  • Increase access to mental health care by, among other things, creating a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning service members as well as a one-stop, interactive website of available resources.
  • Better meet the demand for mental health care by starting a pilot program to repay the loan debt of students in psychiatry so it is easier to recruit them to work at the VA.
  • Boost the accountability of mental health care by requiring an annual evaluation of DoD and VA suicide-prevention practices and programs.

As USAToday reports, “Part of this outreach involves helping colleges and universities aid veterans in transitioning into their communities,” though it “specifies neither the logistics of the pilot community outreach program, nor how it will affect colleges and universities.”

The Speaker’s office says that,

These critical reforms have garnered the support of several veterans advocacy organizations, including the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America (IAVA) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), as well editorial boards across the country:

Rome News Tribune: “No matter how brave they are on the battlefield, some of our men and women who serve in uniform there cannot win their ‘war’ when they return home. At least, not without a lot of help. And this bill will help them find more of that help they so badly need — and deserve.”

The Iowa Gazette: “That penstroke will bring some much-needed assistance to quell a quiet crisis — record numbers of suicides and suicide attempts among our nation’s veterans.”

New York Times: “The legislation addresses an urgent problem, as the V.A. works to make improvements after last year’s scandal. An estimated 22 veterans kill themselves each day on average, according to the latest government data.”

Albany Herald: “One area where our returning men and women in the armed forces have needed more attention is mental health. The memories of what they have seen and experienced in America’s long wars have been hard for many to deal with as they attempt to transition to civilian life….The Clay Hunt Act is a big step…”

It is refreshing to see something good come out of Congress, something that will benefit all the men and women put in harm’s way in service of their country. We can argue over the morality of the wars they were sent to fight, but we cannot argue over what this country owes them in response. They should not be simply tossed aside like broken toys. The Clay Hunt Act should be a starting, but not an end point, in that cause.

18 Replies to “Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act to be Signed into Law by President Obama Thursday”

  1. To all my Veteran brothers there is help.
    The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available.

  2. It took a Democrat to present the bill to the House and it took a Republican in the Senate to block it until now, with his b.s. that it would “add to the deficit”.

    Once again, people, which Party again supports the troops in more than just lip-service?

    I’m very happy to read this outcome although it’s LONG OVERDUE!

    Our brave men and women have given up SO MUCH for the wealthy’s and well-connected’s profit in each and every war, and they’ve been scandalously mistreated, disrespected, and then shoved aside like yesterday’s trash when they return home while wealthy people get even wealthier.

    FINALLY, they get a little bit of help from the government that’s sent them to fight in their stead. This is the LEAST those pompous Congresscritters can do for our wounded brave.

  3. Thanks to the dems, the rethugs including my senator voted against it!

    What is upsetting me this am is the killing of 3 beautiful young people in Wake Forest NC because they are muslims, the killer looks to me like a FOX watcher, I have always blamed O’Reilly for the death of Dr Tiller, FOX stirs up hatred and have been at it since Obama did not vilify all muslims.

  4. From what I understand the killer was an atheist who hated all religions but the story is still unfolding

  5. Is there no one else but me, that sees the Speaker signing a bill, while mocking he is Presidential Material?
    Signing a bill that the thugs are really responsible for. All the injured and killed.
    When the thugs stop starting wars and trying to, then, and only then will I, give them any credit.

  6. So, I’m assuming that in order for this legislation to succeed it prohibits ALL Republican/Conservatives from holding public office or making any policy decisions in perpetuity….No!? well then it doesn’t stand a snowballs chance in hell. For this to work the Reich Wing will have to act like they give a rats ass about our troops and veterans, THAT will never happen .And djchefron, I hope that this person was NOT an atheist because you know as well as I that the Goebbels channel and every nut bag with a bible and a fist to thump it with will call for the expulsion, incarceration or death of every atheist. In other words they want to eradicate the only sane people in this country.

  7. If he hated all religions equally, he could more easily have shot up a church, or even a synagogue. The Islamophobic propaganda mills are doubtless why he went out of his way to find a mosque.

  8. A family of three young Muslims have been shot dead in their home in a quiet neighbourhood of North Carolina in the US.
    Police have named the victims as 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

    Officers were called to reports of gunshots at 5.11pm at an apartment block largely housing academics and young professionals on Summerwalk Circle in Chapel Hill.
    More on the shooter, who is in custody.

    A 46-year-old man, named by police as Craig Stephen Hicks, has been arrested on suspicion of three counts of first-degree murder.
    Hicks described himself as an atheist on Facebook and posted regular images and text condemning all religions. Police said he handed himself in last night.

  9. Thank you Democratinny. Seems to me it’s pretty obvious he is trying very hard to look like a President. Wonder, have the Koch’s promised him the job? He is third in line.

  10. This man in my eyes was the real sniper hero. The PTSD likely came from some of the shots he took. You saw him trying to help out other people and vets instead of writing a lie filled book and having Eastwood make a movie, also full of lies and half truths.

  11. I agree with your comments. But, it appears to me that Boehner and the Republicans so RARELY support and vote in favor of ANY benefits for Veteran’s or any GI Bill, that they are just grandstanding with this one Bill.
    The end justifies the means, this Bill needed to be signed into law.
    My Father is an 89 year old decorated WWII Veteran, that to this day, cannot speak of the horrors he endured.
    Better late than never.
    Let the damn cursed Republicans vote and take credit for this Bill, whatever.
    All I know is that it’s about time the R’s actually walked the walk.

  12. I would like to make a point about how the V.A. keeps dedicated social workers from helping veterans by requiring them to have an independent license (L.I.S.W.) to become employed there. My husband has 25 years of experience, holds an Master’s of Social Work degree, and is a licensed social worker in Ohio. He has applied for employment with the V.A. beginning in 2008, but he has not been hired because of the requirement to have an L.I.S.W. He has taken seminars and the licensing test 3 times, but his ADD keeps him from passing. Although the website said the V.A. would consider social workers without an independent license and he has applied for at least 20 positions, that is not the case. No interview has been forthcoming. I am sorry that the veterans have not had the opportunity to work with such an outstanding professional.
    Christine W. Heilman, Ph.D.

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