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Indiana Senator's Military Suicide Prevention Bill Expected to Get Friday Vote

US Army Africa (Flickr)

A bill authored by Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana seeking to address the high suicide rates among military service members is poised for a full Senate vote on Friday.

The Senate passed a cloture vote Thursday for the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes Donnelly's bill, blocking a filibuster attempt. If the Senate passed the full NDAA it would move to the president for final approval.

Donnelly's Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act is named after the Indiana native who shot and killed himself in 2009. It's the second piece of military suicide prevention legislation to clear the House.

The law would require all active, reserve and guard members to have annual mental health screenings, while preserving privacy protections. It would also require the Pentagon to evaluate the military's mental health practices and provide recommendations for how to improve them.

The support for his bill has been "almost unanimous," Donnelly told WFPL.

"Everybody has been supportive. Everybody has been helpful. And we've been able to move it forward in a pretty solid way," said Donnelly, a Democrat.

In 2012, 522 service members committed suicide, while 316 died in combat, according to a Pentagon report. Last year, 475 service members committed suicide, while 132 died in combat.

Donnelly said that the financial cost of his law is minimal and has already been factored into the NDAA so as not to increase the nation's deficit.

A second bill that has also cleared the House, called the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, would require a third-party annual evaluation of suicide prevention programs in the Department of Veterans' Affairs and Defense Department, and examine which mental health programs need improvement.

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