Sen. Coburn Blocks Funding for Veterans Suicide Prevention Web Site

Thursday, December 18, 2014
Sen. Tom Coburn (photo: Getty Images)

Retiring U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) has never shied away from controversial remarks or positions, but one of his last actions in Washington was a real poke in the eye to those who are working to prevent veterans’ suicides.


Coburn singlehandedly blocked the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act (pdf), named for a former Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who killed himself in 2011. The measure, which the House passed last week, would create pilot program that would help veterans transition to civilian life, a website providing information on mental health services available to veterans, mandate the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) submit their suicide prevention programs to independent review and incentivize psychiatrists to work with the VA.


Veterans groups have complained for years that the government isn’t doing enough to slow the epidemic of military suicides, which average 22 a day.


Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said in a press release: “While we recognize Senator Coburn’s reputation as a budget hawk, clearly the minor cost of this bill would have a tremendous payoff to help save lives in our community. This isn’t about spending new money – it’s about honoring the commitment we owe to the men and women who put on the uniform. With the suicide crisis continuing, it is unconscionable for a lone Senator to block a fair vote and for Congress to leave Washington without dealing with this crisis.”


Coburn, who is retiring after a decade in the Senate, said the legislation would not stem the high numbers of suicides and merely duplicate the work of existing programs. “I don’t think this bill would do the first thing to change what’s happening” in terms of veterans’ suicides, Coburn told the Associated Press.


The bill’s author, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), promised to reintroduce the legislation next year if Congress fails to adopt it before it adjourns.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Tom Coburn Blocks Bill On Veterans’ Suicide Prevention (by Matthew Daly, Associated Press)

Sen. Coburn Blasted for Blocking Veteran Suicide Prevention Bill (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America)

Outgoing GOP Senator Tom Coburn Now Singlehandedly Responsible for Every Veteran Suicide (by Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News)


Gary 1 year ago
Odd since Senator Richard Blumenthal claimed to be a Viet Nam Veteran (which he wasn't) and yet has the nerve to present an Iraq- Afganistan anti-suicide Bill for for an additional $22M? Read this and yell me how this Bill will help Veterans? Requires a board reviewing the discharge or dismissal of a former member of the Armed Forces whose application for relief is based at least in part on post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury related to military operations or sexual trauma, to: (1) review the medical evidence from the VA or a civilian health provider that is presented by the former member; and (2) review the case, with a presumption of administrative irregularity, and place the burden on the VA or DOD to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that no error or injustice occurred.

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