Health care has long been a source of contention for veterans. For their service, they are thanked with limited and unaccommodating health care. As the daughter-in-law of a 67-year-old Marine who served in Vietnam, this is an issue I experience frequently and I feel strongly about. The quality of care and attention that veterans receive is sorely lacking, so I am glad to say that as of November 7th, 2017, H.R. 918 – Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act has been passed.
This legislation states that veterans of the armed forces will receive proper initial and follow-up mental health care, including any services required for their urgent mental health needs, regardless of the circumstances of their discharge. This means that even if a veteran was dishonorably discharged, they can still receive the mental health care they need through Veteran Affairs channels, so they can get all the care they need to cope with the invisible wounds of war and be functioning members of society. Also incorporated into the H.R. 918 legislation is the guarantee that the VA will seek to provide the necessary mental health services outside of their own facilities if the required travel distance is not viable.
Again, all of this is regardless of the nature of the veteran’s discharge, which leads to another benefit of the Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act. The legislation also requires a formal review of a veteran’s service, leading to a closer look at the nature of their discharge and their eligibility for VA benefits. This is a step in the right direction, but there is still more work to do to properly care for our veterans, who have fought for our freedoms.
Today, there are hundreds of thousands of veterans who are denied the care they need by the VA or are forced to wait long periods of time for the treatment they deserve. This is not solely the fault of the VA, as their facilities are overrun with patients, understaffed and underfunded. We, as the people that our veterans have fought for, need to stand up for them and get them the care they deserve. Part of that is bolstering the very facilities and benefits they depend on. The H.R.918 – Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act is a step in the right direction, and this trend must be continued.