Gardner: Our Veterans Deserve Better

Washington, DC – Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) released a video message today in advance of casting his vote in favor of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act.

Click HERE to watch the video.

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Hello. I’m Cory Gardner, your Senator from the Great State of Colorado.

Normally, I like to use these updates as a chance to tell you what’s going on this week in Washington, what legislation I’m working on, and how I’m trying to work towards your priorities.

But today, the Senate is taking up a bill named for Clay Hunt, a former Marine Corporal. Corporal Hunt served his country bravely in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning a Purple Heart for injuries sustained on the battlefield.

He was exactly the kind of person that Veteran’s Affairs policy should be geared towards helping. When Corporal Hunt returned from his tours of duty, he should have been afforded the highest standard of medical care – that’s our promise. He should have received the most supportive mental health programs, and, above all, he should have been given the utmost respect from a government grateful for his service.

Instead, Corporal Hunt encountered bureaucratic hurdles, a system almost impossible for veterans to navigate, and a lack of support for veterans who are struggling with physical and mental wounds long after they’ve left the battlefield.

Corporal Hunt committed suicide in March of 2011. His death was a causes sorrow, disappointment, and a significant amount of outrage in the hearts of all Americans who care about our veterans. Nationwide, it’s estimated that 22 veterans commit suicide every single day. In recent years, we’ve lost more veterans to suicide than we’ve lost in combat. Each one of those deaths is a national tragedy, and one that demands action.

Colorado has over four hundred thousand veterans. All of them are worthy of our thanks and praise, but more importantly, all of them are deserving of the best medical care we can possibly offer. In places like Fort Carson, we’ve seen far too many soldiers and veterans lost to suicide. And that’s why I’ve made Veteran’s care one of my top priorities as a Senator.

It’s why I was so proud to introduce legislation to build the Veteran’s Affairs hospital in Aurora. And it’s why, today, I’m casting a vote in favor of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act.

This bill aims to modernize and improve the suicide prevention programs available to veterans, and provide additional resources for veterans with mental health disorders that might lead to an increased risk of suicide. It will review existing programs to make sure that what we’re doing works and eliminate any programs that don’t, and it will increase coordination between the VA and Veteran’s Service Organizations.

This bill won’t solve all the problems we have caring for veterans. But every step we can take towards fixing this problem is a small down payment on the debt we owe to our men and women in uniform, and it’s our job to never stop working towards that goal.