WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) on Tuesday voted for the passage of a bipartisan bill that will improve mental health care and suicide prevention resources for American service members. Senator Coons is a cosponsor of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, which passed the Senate by a vote of 99-0 on Tuesday after passing the House of Representatives on January 12. It now awaits President Obama’s signature to make it law. Each day, an estimated 22 American veterans commit suicide.

“The men and women of America’s armed forces deserve world class mental health care,” Senator Coons said. “Frankly, until now, our system has just left far too many service men and women without the care and support they need. The Senate’s passage today of the bipartisan Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act is a great step for the men and women who serve our country. It will ensure that the VA and Department of Defense both provide the best possible suicide prevention care. It’s also a strong example of Congress’ ability to come together when it counts. I’m glad this bill will finally become law and will continue working hard with my colleagues to do right by our veterans.” 

The bill, S. 167, unanimously passed the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee in January. It was introduced in the Senate by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

When signed into law, the bill will:

  • Require a third-party evaluation of existing suicide prevention programs at the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to gauge their effectiveness and make recommendations for consolidation, elimination or improvement;
  • Provide for a new website that offers veterans information regarding available mental health care services;
  • Create a pilot loan repayment program for VA psychiatrists;
  • Improve the exchange of training, best practices, and other resources among the VA and non-profit mental health organizations to enhance collaboration in suicide prevention efforts;
  • Create a community outreach pilot program to help veterans transition from active duty service; and
  • Extend the ability for certain combat veterans to enroll in the Veterans Health Administration for one year.