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Washington (CNN) – U.S. Marine Clay Hunt was an American hero, who not only served his country, but also tried to prevent so many troops with post-traumatic stress from taking their own lives.
Now, he has also become a painful example of the price of dysfunction at the VA.
Hunt served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He was wounded in Falluhah, shot through the wrist by a sniper's bullet while on patrol.
When he came home with post-traumatic stress, he made humanitarianism part of his therapy, travelling with other veterans to Haiti and Chile after the earthquakes to lend a hand. He came to Washington to fight for veterans rights, and even had a brief appearance in a public service announcement about suicide prevention for vets.
Then, tragically, in 2011, he took his own life.
"He did not get the care that he needed," Susan Selke, mother of Clay Hunt, told CNN. "It ended in his death."
The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee Thursday pointed to Hunt's story, and others, as examples of the "horrible human cost" of dysfunction at the VA.
Because their emotional wounds were not adequately addressed, "each of these young men faced barrier after barrier in their struggle to get help. Each of these young men eventually succumbed to suicide," said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida.
Clay's parents testified before the committee today, pushing Congress to pass the Suicide Prevention for America's Veterans Act, and to pressure the VA to do better.
"In the mental help area, there just was not a seamless transition from active duty to the VA. When he was active duty, he was injured and diagnosed in 2007," she said. "Fwo years, he received care for post-traumatic stress while he was active duty. And that was - seemed to be fairly good. He seemed to be doing okay."
"It was when he got out and went to the VA, it all went downhill," she said.
For more of our interview with mother and advocate Susan Selke, watch the video above.
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The Lead with Jake Tapper draws not only on Tapper’s deep knowledge of politics and national issues, but also seeks to examine and advance stories across a wide range of topics that demonstrate his own curiosities and interests. Compelling headlines come from around the country and the globe, from politics to money, sports to popular culture, based on news drivers of the day.
The Lead with Jake Tapper airs weekdays at 4 p.m. ET.
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