Family members of veterans who have taken their own lives joined U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal in Hartford on Friday to celebrate the passage of the Clay Hunt SAV Act, which is aimed at preventing suicide among American veterans.
“My hope is that we will fulfill what we owe to our nation’s veterans, that will keep faith to them that we will provide better health care,” said Blumenthal, who sponsored the measure.
The bill passed the U.S. Senate 99-0 earlier this week. The only senator absent was Mark Kirk from Illinois, who was delayed due to weather.
If President Barack Obama signs the measure, as expected, $22 million in new funds will pay for increased efforts to prevent suicide among veterans.
The funding will be used to boost recruitment efforts for recent psychology graduates to work with veterans by paying for their student loans. The funds will also be used to evaluate existing programs for preventing suicide and to create new programs and peer groups for veterans when they return home.
Joanna Eldridge was a guest of Blumenthal at the State of the Union address last month. Eldridge’s husband, Justin, was an engineer in the Marines and served an eight-month tour of duty in Afghanistan. He committed suicide in 2013.
“There is just a lot of sadness for all of us but there’s a lot of hope, too,” Eldridge said, of the passage of the Clay Hunt Act, adding that she wished more resources had been available to her husband.
“I know had this been in place, there would have been a better possibility for my husband to have survived. But since that didn’t happen, I’m just hoping that his life now will not be in vain and this will be a way for him to leave his mark,” she said.
The president is expected to sign the bill into law later this year.