Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz Thursday has introduced a bill to help combat veteran suicides.
Walz, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, unveiled the legislation at a news conference with the mother of former Marine Clay Hunt, who committed suicide in 2011 after serving two combat tours, one apiece in Iraq and Afghanistan.
An estimated 22 veterans killed themselves every day in 2010, up from 18 per day in 2007, according to the latest figures from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“One veteran lost to suicide is one too many,” Walz said in a statement. “While the wars overseas may be ending, all too often our heroes return only to face a war of their own at home.
The legislation would pave the way for more veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury to receive care from the VA. Studies found that tens of thousands of veterans were erroneously discharged and denied benefits after being misdiagnosed with other conditions.
The bill would also mandate annual independent evaluations of VA suicide and mental health programs and establish a peer support program to help service members understand what mental health care services are available to them.
Hunt enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2005 and deployed to Iraq in 2007. During the tour, a sniper shot him the wrist, and he returned to the United States for treatment. He returned to duty in 2008, serving a tour in Afghanistan.
During an oversight hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Hunt’s mother, Susan Selke, said doctors diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder, which caused him to suffer from panic attacks and anxiety. But she said her son seemed to be coping relatively well before his suicide.
Walz introduced the legislation with Republican Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida, chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth. Senate Democrats proposed legislation in March to address the same issue.
WASHINGTON -- Democratic Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar will ride out with President Barack Obama Thursday to Minneapolis and attend events with him both days, staffers confirmed Wednesday.
Both Franken and Klobuchar say they want to talk to the president on the plane about the recent flooding in Minnesota.
Klobuchar will speak at the Lake Harriet Bandshell Friday, where Obama is scheduled to make a speech on the economy.
Neither office was able to confirm attendance Tuesday because the Senate voting schedule was still in flux.
Other confirmed Democrats from the Congressional delegation attending at least some of the events with Obama: Rep. Rick Nolan, Rep. Tim Walz, Rep. Betty McCollum and Rep. Keith Ellison. Rep. Collin Peterson will not go to any of them.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton was enthusiastic about the visit earlier in the week, telling the Strib: "I would be glad to appear with President Obama," he said. "I would want to appear with any president of any political party."
WASHINGTON -- Rep. Tim Walz was among six Democrats and eight Republicans tapped Wednesday on the House side to work out differences between passed House and Senate legislation to reform the Veterans Administration.
Walz, who served 24 years in the Army National Guard, is a member of the House Veterans Committee.
In a statement, Walz said, "My number one goal as a veteran myself and a member of this conference committee is to ensure our veterans and their families are able to get the care they need, and in a timely manner."
The differences between the House and Senate versions of the reform legislation are not great, staffers say, but both chambers are eager to get VA reform passed and sent to the president promptly.
The leadership PAC of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who lost to a Tea Party challenger on Tuesday in a stunning Republican primary upset, has donated $169,500 to Minnesota candidates over the past decade, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Leadership political action committees take in money and donate it to like-minded campaigns.
During that time period, Cantor’s Every Republican is Crucial PAC has donated $40,000 to Rep. Erik Paulsen, $35,000 to Rep. Michele Bachmann and $34,500 to Rep. John Kline.
Cantor’s PAC has also donated to former congressmen Jim Ramstad, Gil Gutknecht and Mark Kennedy, who Cantor also supported during his failed 2006 U.S. Senate run against Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Former Sen. Norm Coleman’s 2008 campaign against Sen. Al Franken received a $5,000 boost from Cantor.
In 2010, he backed Randy Demmers’s campaign against Rep. Tim Walz in the First Congressional District with a $5,000 donation.
In 2012, he donated $10,000 to former Eight District U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack who lost to current congressmen Rick Nolan. This cycle, he’s donated $10,000 to Nolan’s challenger, Stewart Mills III.
Cantor has also donated $5,000 to state Sen. Torrey Westrom’s campaign in the Seventh Congressional District, marking the first time he's put money behind a candidate vying to unseat Rep. Collin Peterson.
Cantor has also been an ally to Minnesota’s Republicans in his role as Majority Leader.
This year, he’s helped Paulsen shepherd anti-sex trafficking legislation through the House.
A charter school advocate, Cantor has backed Kline’s efforts to enact school choice legislation and rewrite the No Child Left Behind Act.
Cantor and Kline also are among a select group of Republicans tasked with developing a viable GOP alternative to the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s health care law.
WASHINGTON -- Minnesota's eight House members and both senators collectively urged the Army Tuesday to clarify a new directive expanding legal services to victims of sexual assault in the National Guard.
The Army recently released new rules expanding important legal services to certain victims of military sexual assault, but the rules don't cover National Guard members who become victims of sexual assault outside drill weekends or military duties.
Minnesota's ten members of Congress say the directive will undermine the Minnesota National Guard's ability to "effectively provide support services to survivors of sexual assaults," according to a release.
The letter was led by Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and GOP Rep. John Kline and co-signed by Democrat Sen. Al Franken and Reps. Collin Peterson, Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, Tim Walz and Rick Nolan, and Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann and Erik Paulsen.
"Our Minnesota service members should not be impeded from seeking critical services in the aftermath of a sexual assault," the letter said. "The Army must provide clear guidance and direction in order for the National Guard to effectively provide these services authorized by Congress."
The letter comes as the Department of Defense scrambles to deal with the increasing problem of sexual assaults in the military. According to the delegation release today, the DoD found in May that overall reporting of sexual assaults in the military in 2013 was 50 percent higher than it was the previous year -- 5,061 in 2013 versus 3,374 in 2012. Previous year-to-year increases in reporting never exceeded five percent.
There are more than 13,000 soldiers and airman in the Minnesota National Guard.
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