House and Senate lawmakers are pledging to renew their push for legislation designed to help bolster suicide prevention programs for military veterans in the next Congress.
The bill, known as the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, passed the House last week but was blocked Monday night by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who balked over the measure’s $22 million price tag and claimed it overlapped existing efforts at the Veterans Affairs Department.
“I’m going to be objecting to this bill because it actually throws money away,” Coburn said on the Senate floor. “We’re the ones to blame for not holding the VA accountable.
“I don’t think this bill is going to do one thing to change what is happening.”
The move infuriated backers of the legislation, which is named after a young Iraq veteran who took his own life.
“Make no mistake, the fight isn’t over,” Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), one of the original sponsors of the bill, said in a statement late Monday night. “We will rally from this setback; I will reintroduce this important legislation immediately in the 114th Congress, and there is no doubt in my mind it will eventually become law.”
Walz, the highest-ranking enlisted soldier in congressional history, noted that according to the VA’s own math, around 8,000 veterans commit suicide every year.