Hoeven: Senate Passes Bill to Improve Mental Health Care, Suicide Prevention Services for Veterans

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today announced the U.S. Senate has passed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act, legislation he co-sponsored that increases access to mental health services and improves the quality of care provided through mental health programs at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The legislation, which passed the House of Representatives in January, passed the Senate today by a vote of 99 to 0 and now goes to the President to be signed into law.

“In the course of their dedicated service, our military members sacrifice in many ways,” said Hoeven. “That includes injuries both seen and unseen, and we owe our veterans the best possible care in treating those wounds. This legislation will not only improve suicide prevention at the VA and help our veterans access mental health care, but it will also ensure the quality of that care. Now, we will continue working to improve all services offered by the VA and ensure our veterans can get the support they need from local providers when the VA and its outpatient clinics cannot provide the services.”

The Clay Hunt SAV Act is named in honor of Clay Hunt, a Texas veteran who served in Iraq and struggled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when he returned home. He worked to help other veterans deal with the unseen injuries of war, but his own struggle proved too much for him, and in 2011he committed suicide. 

The legislation improves mental health care access for veterans by requiring the VA to create a one-stop website to serve as a centralized source of information regarding all department mental health services and authorizing the VA to conduct a 3-year student loan repayment pilot program to recruit and retain psychiatrists, among other things. The bill also develops a community support system for veterans transitioning from active duty and boosts accountability at the VA by requiring a yearly third-party evaluation of its mental health care and suicide prevention practices.

As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Hoeven continues working to secure funding for the VA to improve services and care for veterans while also empowering veterans to access more options for health care and long-term care (LTC) services in their home communities.