Statistics show that roughly 18% of all suicide deaths that occur in the United States are veterans. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), a veteran takes his or her life every 72 minutes, attesting to the severity of this problem. In an effort to curb these numbers, however, the VA has announce new plans to expand mental healthcare for our nation’s veterans.
Earlier this month, the VA said it will begin to offer urgent mental healthcare services beginning this summer, all of which will be accessible for former military service members, including those who receives a less-than-honorable discharge.
When speaking about the newly expanded mental healthcare options, VA Secretary David Shulkin explained that the additional coverage is vital to protecting our nation’s veterans from mental distress. He also said that the VA couldn’t wait any longer for legislation, citing that many veterans who’ve taken their own lives had not received care from the VA.
The new services specifically focus on veterans who didn’t receive an honorable discharge. Up until new, these veterans have been restricted from receiving many core healthcare services, placing them at a higher risk of suicide and mental illness than their counterparts who did receive an honorable discharge. A less-than-honorable discharge may include misconduct for violence or the use of illegal drugs. The VA says that nearly half-a-million former service members fall under this category.
According to Shulkin, the VA would see veterans immediately at VA emergency rooms throughout the country if needed. Furthermore, the VA is looking to hire an additional 1,000 healthcare providers of mental health services to assist with this new expansion.
So, when will these new mental healthcare options be available? The estimated date for rolling out the services is June-July, though a specific date has not been announced as of yet.
“This is fantastic news and a major win,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “This policy change will forever alter the future for thousands of veterans and their families. It’s an outstanding move by the new VA secretary.”
Hopefully, this new expansion of mental healthcare services to veterans with less-than-honorable discharges will reduce suicide rates and improve the quality of life to our nation’s former servicemembers.