Executive Order Expands Mental Health Care Services to All Honorably Discharged Veterans

Posted in Uncategorized on April 17, 2018

In the wake of the Department of Veteran Affairs’ (VA) recently released study of veteran suicide – examining more than 55 million records from the last four decades – the heat is being turned up to battle one of the leading causes of death for military members.Executive Order Expands Mental Health Care Services to All Honorably Discharged Veterans

In signing a Jan. 9 executive order, President Trump called for increased access to mental health care for longer periods of time for veterans and transitioning service members (who, according to the VA, are at 1.5 times higher risk of suicide during the first 12 months after service).

Executive Order Expands Mental Health Care to All Honorably Discharged Veterans

The executive order also gives the VA, along with the Departments of Defense (DOD) and Homeland Security, just two months from signing to create a concrete, executable plan of action to provide seamless access to mental health treatment and suicide prevention resources in the year following discharge, separation or retirement.

The primary first action resulting from the executive order is the opening of VA mental health services to veterans who otherwise do not qualify for VA health services.

Almost 60% of veterans do not qualify for care from the VA, typically due to a lack of verified service-connected disability or service in a combat zone. The new order will extend VA mental health care services to 100% of honorably discharged veterans who served in active duty for one year beginning March 9, 2018.

The idea is to close the gap of mental health care services between the time of separation and the time when a veteran can establish his or her own health care coverage. The order also will allow eligible veterans to participate in the VA Choice program, that provides ways to be seen by private care providers depending on a veteran’s distance away from VA facilities or appointment wait times.

In similar efforts, the DOD is also expanding its peer outreach services for active duty service members, focusing especially those preparing to transition out of the service or going through medical boards, which can be a particularly stressful time. Additionally, the Military OneSource program plans to expand its services – including confidential non-medical counseling – to include veterans up to one year, as opposed to the previous 180 days.

For veterans who received less-than-honorable (OTH) discharges – or “bad papers” – the VA also recently made strides in offering emergency mental health services, with suicide prevention as the top concern.

OTH designations make a veteran ineligible for many VA benefits, including health care; unfortunately, many times the causes of the DOH – such as erratic behavior or substance abuse – are often symptoms of undiagnosed mental health issues.

Currently, all Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical centers offer emergency stabilization care for former service members who come to the clinic with an emergent mental health need. They will be eligible to receive care for an initial period of up to 90 days, which can include inpatient, residential or outpatient care.

Veterans in crisis should call the Veterans Crisis Line at: 800-273-8255 (press 1), or text 838255.

Written by Megan Hammons

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