Friday, December 19, 2014

Roar for 22.

No, not Alex Poythress.  As rough as tearing your ACL is, it’s not life-ending.  For 22 veterans a day, suicide is.
It’s pretty tough to get the House of Representatives to vote unanimously to pass anything, and it’s pretty challenging to get both Democrats and Republicans to even agree on anything, but the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act is something that everyone got behind.  But there’s always that one guy.  And sometimes that’s enough.
The outgoing Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has decided to make a stand.  It’s tough to be the one man willing to stand in the gap.  You got to admire the resolve of a man who’s willing to let at least 22 more American veterans die a day in order to make his point.  A man who voted twice to send those Marines, airmen, sailors, and soldiers to wars in foreign lands.  Senator Coburn blocked the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act from being voted on in the last session, despite a coalition Veteran Services Organizations, mental health organizations, and really nearly every human being with a soul. 
The Clay Hunt Act was designed using information obtained from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).  According to the IAVA, the bill was designed to:
·         Create a peer support and community outreach program for transitioning veterans and a new one-stop website of available resources
·         Start a pilot program that would repay student loans for psychiatrists that work for the VA
·         Require annual evaluation of DoD and VA suicide-prevention practices and programs

Perhaps it is no surprise that Senator Coburn would block this bill, as all of this was going to cost an exorbitant $22 million.  Senator Coburn is, after all, the author of “The Wastebook,” an accounting of all the ways the US government wastes taxpayer money every year.  His piercing eyes see everything, and that $20 million that he identified was spent on administrative leave for misbehaving bureaucrats has to come from somewhere.  Of course, in comparison to the $2.1 million per soldier that Afghanistan is currently costing, $22 million doesn’t really seem like all that much, does it?  It’s especially interesting that the sixth sentence in his publication is “OUR NATION’S HEROES BEING KILLED, NOT BY ENEMY COMBATANTS, BUT BY THE VERY VETERANS’ HEALTH SYSTEM SET UP TO CARE FOR THEM.” The all caps is from the publication. 
The passing of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act is going to pass.  There is practically zero chance of it failing in a vote, as it would be political suicide for nearly any Senator to vote against it.  This was the outgoing Senator Coburn’s last act representing the people of Oklahoma.  The only thing he did was delay the bill.  By at least 100 days.  At 22 veterans a day, the math is simple. 
Some of the supporting organizations are: American Psychiatric Association, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary, U.S. Army Warrant Officer Association, Disabled American Veterans, Wounded Warrior Project, Military Officers Association of American, National Military Family Association, Marine Corps League, Association of the United States Navy, The Retired Enlisted Association, Fleet Reserve Association, Air Force Sergeants Association, Jewish War Veterans, and Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service.

On an extremely personal note, on September 5th I was informed that one of my fellow soldiers, a friend of mine, had taken his own life.  Sadly, he wasn’t the first.  And even more tragically, he won’t be the last.  

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