By LINDSAY JANCEK
Office of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski
In an effort to reduce the number of veterans and troops who commit suicide, Congresswoman Jackie Walorski recently supported legislation she co-sponsored to increase access and improve the quality of mental health care administered to veterans.
H.R. 5059, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, helps to reduce the number of military and veteran suicides by providing greater access to mental health care. According to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, 22 veterans commit suicide every day.
“Every day, veterans take their own lives and I’ve experienced this same tragedy in my district. Our brave servicemen and women face a number of challenges when transitioning back to civilian life. They shouldn’t have to navigate a bureaucratic nightmare within the VA in order to receive help. We must improve the access and effectiveness of mental health care available to our returning heroes,” Walorski said.
The bill was named in honor of Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran, Clay Hunt who took his own life after battling with post-traumatic stress disorder after his service overseas. Hunt relied on the VA for care and received a 30 percent disability rating for his PTSD. He appealed the rating and encountered administrative obstacles, including the VA losing his files. Hunt took his life weeks later. Five weeks after his death, and 18 months after filing an appeal with the VA for his PTSD rating, his appeal was approved.
“Clay embodied what it meant to live a life of service, both in and out of uniform. Together, we can change this system so no other veteran ever has to endure what thousands of veterans have gone through, including Clay,” Walorski said.
Specifically the bill:
- Requires suicide-prevention programs within the Defense Department and VA undergo a third-party evaluation.
- Examines which mental health programs could be improved.
- Requires a website be established that focuses on mental health services for veterans.
- Encourages improved collaboration between the VA and outside veteran’s advocacy groups.
Walorski spoke on the floor of the U.S. House in favor of the bill. She also heard testimony from Hunt’s mother who testified before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee in July. The bill now heads to the Senate for further action.
Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District in Indiana, where she serves as a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, House Armed Services Committee, and House Budget Committee.