Monday’s Headline :
Iraq War veteran shoots himself dead in MN campus library
Tuesday’s Headline :
Congress approves S. 167 / H.R. 203 Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act
Ponder this : the film, American Sniper, which had a production budget of $58 million, has earned a worldwide gross of $317,697,650 (that’s over $317 million)…
and yesterday, the Senate (FINALLY) joined the House in approving Clay Hunt suicide prevention legislation …
Authorizing (but not appropriating) $3 million for FY2015.
The bill orders the Veterans Affairs Department to find money for suicide-prevention programs within its budget — NO NEW MONEY.
$3 million ?
Yeah, while the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), who spearheaded the bill, frequently mention that 22 veterans commit suicide daily and that over 2.8 million have served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan … and Congress (FINALLY) agrees to authorize $3 million.
“While we are a little bittersweet, because it is too late for our son Clay, we are thankful knowing that this bill will save many lives,” said Susan Selke, mother of Clay Hunt. “No veteran should have to wait or go through bureaucratic red tape to get the mental health care they earned during their selfless service to our country. While this legislation is not a 100 percent solution, it is a huge step in the right direction.”
Ya gotta wonder what those moviegoers thought when they saw American Sniper ?
U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is sent to Iraq with only one mission: to protect his brothers-in-arms. His pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and, as stories of his courageous exploits spread, he earns the nickname “Legend.”
He is also facing a different kind of battle on the home front: striving to be a good husband and father from halfway around the world. Despite the danger, as well as the toll on his family at home, Chris serves through four harrowing tours of duty in Iraq, personifying the spirit of the SEAL creed to “leave no one behind.” But upon returning to his wife, Taya Renae Kyle, and kids, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.
The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act is long overdue … and underfunded.
Let us remember that it was proposed on July 10, 2013 by a bi-partisan group of legislators lead by Tim Walz … and the Republican-controlled House finally agreed to allow a vote on December 9, 2013 – it passed on a voice vote.
The legislation authorized $6 million for FY2015 but Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) put a hold on the bill stating it was too expensive.
That bill died when that congressional session ended, so Tim Walz offered a new bill this session H.R. 203 on January 7th and was quickly approved on January 12th … where it waited for the Republican-controlled Senate to allow a vote (even though it had total of 53 cosponsors – 30 Democrats, 21 Republicans and two Independents.) And NO NEW MONEY was allowed.
So yesterday, it was approved 99-0.
Yes, NO member of the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate voted against the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act.
Why did it take so long ?
Especially considering the headline from the previous day :
Horror as MSU philosophy student and Iraq War veteran, 27, shoots himself dead in campus library
A 27-year-old Minnesota State University student and war veteran shot and killed himself in the campus library Monday afternoon.
According to his Facebook page, Timothy Lee Anderson was a US Army veteran who served at least one tour of duty in Iraq as a gunner in 2007.
Anderson’s friends and family took to Facebook to express their heartache and shock after news of his suicide spread.
‘Please pray for my family as we go through the loss of my precious nephew,’ aunt Kimbery Anderson wrote. ‘God grant us serenity and strength as we all struggle to understand and hold one another up through this.’
Whether his military service impacted his decision to commit suicide is unknown, yet one has to wonder.
Especially considering the Clay Hunt story. As Tim Walz described meeting Clay Hunt when he came to “storm the hill” during a lobbying effort a few years ago.
Hunt earned a Purple Heart after being shot in the wrist by a sniper bullet near Fallujah, Iraq in 2007. Despite his injury, he graduated from Marine Corps Scout Sniper School in 2008 and deployed again, this time to Afghanistan
When he returned home to Houston after his tour, he suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and was repeatedly put on wait lists by the VA for medical care. He was prescribed more medication than mental health treatment and told his family he felt like a “guinea pig for drugs.”
Hunt committed suicide in March 2011 at the age of 28.
“We may never completely end this terrible epidemic … but if we can save one parent from having to bury their child, one son from losing this mother, or one sister from losing her brother, it’s worth trying with all our might,” Representative Walz said, in a statement Tuesday.
The Mankato incident will quickly move out of the headlines … and our politicians will remind us next election cycle that they “championed” legislation to “keep faith with our veterans” yet we need to ask two questions :
Why does it take so long ?
Is it adequately funded ?