Stop Veteran Suicide: Pass the Clay Hunt Act Now | Commentary

Posted December 2, 2014 at 2:04pm

The all too familiar story of a piece of legislation’s life cycle began on July 10. With the usual fanfare and traditional press releases, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act was introduced by a bipartisan group of members in the House.

Then, per usual, nothing happened. That was until Nov. 19, when the Senate and House held concurrent hearings on the legislation.

Unfortunately, this is the typical song-and-dance lawmakers do. In those 133 days of inaction, an estimated 2,926 veterans committed suicide — 22 per day.

There are more than 23 million veterans in the United States. Nearly 25 percent actually utilize the VA health care system. Hundreds of thousands suffer from an invisible wound, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.

On the surface, these are just statistics. To the Armed Forces Foundation, these are husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters.

During the Senate hearing on Nov. 19, Valerie Pallotta told the committee how she and her husband were woken up at 3:37 a.m. by police officers knocking at their door to inform them their son, PFC Joshua Pallotta was dead.

“His death certificate should have stated the cause of death as PTSD/TBI, not from a self-inflicted wound,” Valerie testified.

Our government has made promises to every single one of our veterans and we ask that lawmakers try their best to fulfill these promises.

Our foundation proudly operates with the motto of “Serving Those Who Serve.” What many fail to realize is families serve too.

With the 2012 launch of our Help Save Our Troops campaign, the AFF proactively educates Americans about the hidden wounds of war, including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, and advocates for those troops and veterans who have suffered these hidden wounds. The ultimate goal of Help Save Our Troops is to reduce military suicides.

On the same day the Clay Hunt Act was introduced in the House, Reps. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., and Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, co-hosted a screening of the AFF-produced documentary “That Which I Love Destroys Me,” a centerpiece of the Help Save Our Troops campaign.

The film is an uncensored look at the current epidemic of PTSD and how tremendous the challenges are for returning service members. A five-year labor of love, the film followed two special operations soldiers as they returned home after fighting in the longest combat campaign in American history only to face a new battle: the effects and stigma of PTSD and reintegration as a whole. But more importantly, the documentary addresses how they’re overcoming these issues.

We were proud to premiere the film nationwide on the Pivot channel this past Veterans Day.

Veterans organizations hear too many heartbreaking stories every day. We all work hard to step in to fill the voids left by the VA’s inaction and ineptitude, but the challenges are simply too great.

Now, we need Congress to do its job. Pass the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act.

Pass it immediately. Pass it before another mother and father are awoken at 3:37 a.m. Pass it before a family has to spend the holidays without a loved one.

What we need now is action to pass this legislation and give our veterans the respect and treatment they have so gallantly earned. Anything less is simply unacceptable.

Patricia Driscoll is president of the Armed Forces Foundation and CEO of Frontline Defense Systems.