Addressing Veteran’s Mental Health Needs

PVA recently endorsed S. 785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act

By PVA National Staff

PVA recently endorsed S. 785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, which was introduced by the Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Senator Jon Tester. This landmark legislation incorporates ideas from mental health advocates, local stakeholders, and veterans, and builds upon what VA is doing right when it comes to mental health treatment and suicide prevention, while filling in the gaps with innovative treatment options, better access to care for rural and women veterans, and more help for service members transitioning out of the military. Among other provisions, the bill would:

  • Bolster VA’s mental health workforce to serve more veterans by giving VA direct hiring authority for more mental health professions, offering scholarships to mental health professionals to work at Vet Centers, and placing at least one Suicide Prevention Coordinator in every VA hospital.
  • Improve rural veterans’ access to mental health care by increasing the number of locations at which veterans can access VA telehealth services and offer grants to non-VA organizations that provide mental health services or alternative treatment to veterans.
  • Strengthen support and assistance for service members transitioning out of the military by giving every service member one full year of VA health care when they leave the military and improving services that connect transitioning veterans with career and education opportunities.
  • Study and invest in innovative and alternative treatment options by expanding veterans’ access to animal, outdoor, or agri-therapy, yoga, meditation, and acupuncture, and investing in VA research into the impact of living at high altitude on veterans’ suicide risk and identifying and treating mental illness.
  • Hold VA accountable for its mental health care and suicide prevention efforts by examining how VA manages its suicide prevention resources and how VA provides seamless care and information sharing for veterans seeking mental health care from VA and community providers.
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