Outlines Specific, Meaningful Ways the VA Would Provide Mental and Behavioral Health Services
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chris Murphy (D-CN), and Jon Tester (D-MT) today introduced the Honor Our Commitment Act, requiring the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide mental and behavioral health services to veterans who received other-than-honorable discharges.
"For years, we have worked to break through bureaucracy to ensure mental and behavioral health care is more easily available to veterans and servicemembers," Bennet said. "Currently, the system to access care is overly cumbersome. This bill expands access to mental and behavioral health care to those with other-than-honorable discharges in need of these critical services, and is an important step in clarifying the process for eligibility and treatment."
"Both the Department of Defense and the VA have mistreated returning service members suffering from mental health disorders occurring as a result of their service to our country," Murphy said. "This bill will make sure that if you fight for the United States, your country will take care of you when you get home. These veterans have risked their lives for our country. They shouldn't be cut off from getting the care and treatment they deserve."
"No veteran should be turned away from receiving life-saving mental health care," Tester said. "This bill does right by our troops and veterans who have sacrificed the most, and it rights the wrongs that have isolated thousands of veterans from the care they earned."
The Honor Our Commitment Act's introduction follows a series of efforts to clarify and expand existing law to ensure veterans with other-than-honorable discharges can access critical mental health care.
Following a recent announcement from VA Secretary David Shulkin, Bennet, along with several colleagues, sent a letter to the Secretary expressing concern about the vague announcement and asking him to define specific steps the VA plans to take to begin providing mental health services to veterans with other-than-honorable discharges. In the letter, Bennet specifically raised concerns that the VA has failed to explain to Congress whether it intends to provide preventative mental and behavioral health care or just basic crisis and suicide prevention assistance.
U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) are also original cosponsors of the Honor Our Commitment Act. U.S. Representatives Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) and Mike Bost (R-Ill.) introduced companion legislation in the House.
Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, send a text message to 838255, or visit https://www.veteranscrisisline.net to receive confidential support at any time.