Cornyn Introduces Bill Expanding Veterans’ Access to Mental Health Care
by John Cornyn on March 16, 2018 at 10:13 AM
Along with Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), I introduced the Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act, legislation that would expand veterans’ access to mental health care services to former service members who may not be eligible to receive health care benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Many of our military members return home with injuries both seen and unseen, and we must give them every opportunity to get the care they need. Veterans who are struggling deserve to be carefully evaluated at the onset of mental illness and supported with the VA medical treatment necessary for their recovery.
Specifically, the legislation would require the VA to provide veterans who were released from the military with an “other-than-honorable” discharge a mental health assessment and treatment. Under current law, veterans who received an “other-than-honorable” discharge may not be eligible for mental health services from the VA unless the department has deemed otherwise.
A joint investigation by NPR and Colorado Public Radio in 2015 revealed that the U.S. Army has separated an estimated 22,000 combat veterans diagnosed with mental health disabilities or traumatic brain injury for alleged misconduct since 2009.
The Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act also allows veterans to receive mental health treatment outside the VA health system if the Secretary deems treatment at the designated facility “clinically advisable” or too far from a veterans’ residence. Additionally, the bill requires the VA to establish a formal “character of service” process, in which the Secretary would review the veterans’ discharge or release.
Congressman Mike Coffman (R-CO) introduced the Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act, H.R. 918, in the U.S. House of Representatives. The U.S. House unanimously passed the bill in November 2017.