The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act was signed into law on February 12, 2015.
As we reported on November 24, 2014, the law is named for Sgt. Clay Hunt, a decorated Marine who became a veterans’ advocate after leaving the military in 2009. He suffered from PTSD but was given only a 30% rating from the VA. Getting the mental health care he needed was difficult, time-consuming and frustrating. He appealed his rating, but the VA lost his paperwork. After enduring the hassle of submitting it all again, he took his own life in 2011. Just weeks after his death, the VA approved the appeal and awarded him a 100% rating. Tragic.
This SAV Act will require the VA Secretary to establish a website that will centralize information about VA mental health services and update it at least once each 90-day period.
The law authorizes the VA to begin a 3-year pilot program to recruit additional psychiatrists by offering to repay their psychiatric medicine-related education loans.
The VA will also establish another 3-year pilot program to assist service members with the transition from active duty to veteran status while improving access to mental health care. This program will be put into effect at a minimum of 5 Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs). Each program will include a community-oriented veteran peer support network and a community outreach team for all the medical centers in each of the VISNs.
The new law will give the VA Secretary the authority to work with nonprofit mental health organizations on suicide prevention among veterans and to select a VA director of Suicide Prevention Coordinator to oversee the program.
The law also allows combat vets access to VA medical care—including hospital and nursing home care—for conditions that are not service-connected for an additional year, as long as the veteran was discharged or released from active duty between 1 January 2009 and 1 January 2011 and did not enroll in the VA health system for such care during the 5-year eligibility period after their discharge.
In addition to these main points, the law also establishes ways to monitor the VA’s progress as it implements these new provisions.
We are encouraged to see steps being taken to help our veterans who struggle with these very real issues. We sincerely hope that this new law will be effective in preventing and ultimately eliminating these terrible tragedies.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, help is available. We encourage you to reach out to the Veteran’s Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 or www.VeteransCrisisLine.Net or to any of the many local suicide crisis lines.