Letter seeks further details on VA Secretary’s announcement
Washington, D.C. - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet joined an effort to ensure that veterans with other-than-honorable discharges can access critical mental health care.
"We support Secretary Shulkin's decision to provide additional mental health services to veterans," Bennet said. "Access to mental and behavioral health care is currently too limited by VA bureaucracy for veterans with other-than-honorable discharges. We must ensure that any changes to VA policy are meaningful and provide support to veterans in need of these services."
Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) joined Bennet in asking VA Secretary David Shulkin for answers about how the VA plans to provide mental health care to veterans with other-than-honorable discharges.
Half a million veterans have other-than-honorable discharges. Many of these veterans have diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury. During a recent House Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing, Shulkin announced that the VA would begin providing mental health services to these veterans. While supporting efforts to provide additional services, the Senators expressed concern that a policy announcement that isn't clearly defined raises more questions than answers for veterans who may need critical services.
"Ensuring there is clarity on VA's course of action on this matter is essential to veterans and their loved ones understanding what services VA will provide and that individuals in crisis are not further disrupted by bureaucratic obstacles," the senators wrote. "These questions must be addressed quickly, and the answers must be communicated proactively to all veterans immediately."
The senators asked a series of questions about the new VA directive:
- Will the VA be providing preventive mental health services or would this care be only for veterans in urgent crisis, such as those who seek care through the Veterans Crisis Line?
- What additional authority or resources does the VA need to more completely deliver mental and behavioral health care to our nation's veterans?
- Since the VA currently has authority to treat a veteran at a VA emergency room without checking their discharge status, what additional treatment or services will be provided under this new initiative?
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.
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