Senate Veterans Committee Votes for Clay Hunt Suicide Bill

Clay Hunt (Photo: IAVA)

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday voted to send to the floor legislation intended to help tackle suicide among veterans.

The panel's move comes little more than a week after the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act was reintroduced to the Senate and following its overwhelming support in the House of Representatives.

The anti-suicide bill was headed for easy passage in December when it failed on a procedural maneuver by since retired Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, who killed it with a legislative hold that prevented a Senate vote. Coburn claimed the bill duplicated existing Veterans Affairs Department programs and that its $22 million price tag was not offset by cuts in other programs.

Veterans groups and military associations condemned the lawmaker's action and vowed to see the bill reintroduced as soon as the new Congress convened earlier this month. With Coburn now out of Congress, there appears to be no opposition to the bill.

The measure is named for a Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who committed suicide in 2011. He was 28.

Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, said after the unanimous committee vote that the full Senate would quickly pass the bill.

"When you have 8,000 veterans a year committing suicide – which is more veterans than have died in all of Iraq and all of Afghanistan since we've been fighting – then you have a serious problem and this is emergency legislation that we need to pass to help our veterans," Isakson said.

The VA estimates that, on average, some 22 veterans take their own lives each day.

-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com

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