Iowa’s Joni Ernst, the first female combat veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate, is touting passage of legislation designed to improve mental health care options for soldiers returning from combat.
“So many of us understand this having been around family members or loved ones that have served overseas during very difficult times and many of us understand that these invisible wounds of war do not go unnoticed,” Ernst says.
The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act passed the U.S. Senate unaniously this past Tuesday.
“The legislation was named in honor of a veterans advocate, Marine Corporal Clay Hunt, who was a young man who struggled to find adequate health care and later Clay took his own life,” Ernst says.
Hunt, a Texas native who served as a Marine sniper in Iraq and Afghanistan, committed suicide in 2011, According to the bill’s sponsor, 22 combat veterans commit suicide every day in America, a suicide rate that’s 50 percent higher than the general population. The bill gives the Veterans Administration money to recruit more psychiatrists, plus the VA will develop a new website designed to be a one-stop shop for veterans seeking help. It also extends the time soldiers may have access to VA mental health care services after they return from combat.
“It lays the groundwork for improved mental health care for our returning men and women,” Ernst says. “This is the care that they need and they deserve.”
The bill passed the House earlier this year and President Obama is expected to sign it into law.