Congress showed rare unanimous bipartisan support for legislation aimed at addressing the disturbing rise in military veteran suicides, which totals 8,000 deaths annually.
The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, named for a Marine who took his life after serving tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, passed both the House and Senate without a single dissenting vote.
The legislation calls for external audits of Veterans Affairs suicide prevention programsadd a pilot program to pay the student debt of doctors who psychiatric medicine and commit to working with the VA, The bill also authorizes creation of a website that highlights mental health services available through the VA.
There is a $28 million price tag attached to the legislation, but Senate supporters said that amount could be found within the existing VA budget, which itself has been the subject of criticism as being inadequate to handle the growing caseload of returning veterans.
If people wonder what it takes for Congress to act in unison, they now know — more soldiers killing themselves than being killed by enemy fire.
Critics say it shouldn't have take this long for Congress to tackle a problem that has gained increased publicity for the rise in post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. They also contend more needs to be done than a website, audit or student debt repayments. Many charitable organizations, such as the Wounded Warrior Project, have stepped in to help, attracting contributions from businesses and private citizens and bringing fresh resources to the battle.