- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - The House unanimously approved a bill Tuesday aimed at reducing a suicide epidemic that claims the lives of 22 military veterans every day.

A bill named for Clay Hunt, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran from Houston who killed himself in 2011, would require the Pentagon and Veterans Affairs Department to submit to independent reviews of their suicide prevention programs.

It also would establish a website to provide information on mental health services available to veterans, offer financial incentives to psychiatrists who agree to work for the VA and create a pilot program to assist veterans transitioning from active duty to veteran status.

The suicide rate among veterans is about triple the average rate for the general population.

“Despite record mental health staffing and budget levels at the Department of Veterans Affairs, today’s veterans are falling victim to the invisible wounds of war all too often,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Miller called the 22-a-day rate of veterans suicides “a heartbreaking statistic that has remained unchanged for more than a decade.” By passing the bill, “the House took an important step toward putting an end to this grim status quo,” Miller said.

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., called the bill a starting point and said Congress and the VA must do more to improve mental health care for veterans.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

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