WASHINGTON (AP) — Acknowledging the struggles of the nation’s veterans, President Barack Obama on Thursday signed legislation intended to reduce a military suicide epidemic that is claiming lives by the day.
“If you are hurting, know this. You are not forgotten,” Obama said, addressing soldiers and veterans as he prepared to affix his signature to the law.
The law requires the Pentagon and Veterans Affairs Department to submit to independent reviews of their suicide prevention programs and make information on suicide prevention more easily available to veterans.
It also offers financial incentives to psychiatrists and other mental health professionals who agree to work for the VA and assist military members as they transition from active duty to veteran status.
“Too many of our troops and veterans are still struggling,” Obama said. “They are recovering from injuries; they are mourning fallen comrades; they’re trying to reconnect with family and friends who can never fully understand what they went through in war theater.
“For many of them, the war goes on in the flashbacks that come rushing forward, and the nightmares that don’t go away,” Obama said.
The bill was named after Clay Hunt, a 28-year-old Marine veteran who struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hunt killed himself in 2011 in Texas.
“He suffered physical injuries that healed, and he suffered invisible sounds that stayed with him,” Obama said. “By all accounts he was selfless, and he was brave.”
Among those who attended the signing were Republican Sens. John McCain, a frequent critic of Obama’s military policy, and Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, the new chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.