Trump Orders Plan for Mental Health Care for US Veterans

Trump Orders Plan for Mental Health Care for US Veterans

Henrietta Brewer
January 10, 2018

The president signed a new executive order Tuesday titled "Supporting Our Veterans During Their Transition from Uniformed Service to Civilian Life". The Department of Veterans Affairs, the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security are required to establish new plans within 60 days.

However, in 2017 the VA under Director Dr. David Shulkin opened up emergency mental health services for all former military members, including those with "other than honorable" discharges.

"We look forward to continuing our partnership with the VA to ensure veterans who have served our country continue to receive the important mental health care and services they need and deserve", said Defense Secretary James N. Mattis. He says this administration needs to focus on a more comprehensive approach to fixing issues facing veterans rather than executive orders.

"That is just an unacceptable number and we are focused on doing everything we can to try to prevent these veteran suicides", Shulkin said during a phone conference with reporters January 9. "They're the people we should be focusing on". It calls for "seamless access to mental health treatment and suicide prevention resources for transitioning service members" in the year following military service, according to a fact sheet provided by the White House.

Veterans Affairs Commissioner David Shulkin said officials estimate that about 20 veterans a day take their own lives.

According to The Washington Post, a program known as Military OneSource may be expanded to include services for a full year after a veteran leaves the military.

"That is just an unacceptable number, and we are focused on doing everything we can to prevent these veterans' suicides", Shulkin said.

Veterans who leave the service with "bad paper" discharges - disciplinary separations that can bar recipients from collecting VA education, disability, and medical benefits - wouldn't qualify for new benefits under the executive order.

A senior administration official also said the costs total a "couple million" dollars and will come from resources already available to the VA and the DOD.

According to the VA, approximately 20 veterans died by suicide each day in 2014.

The Trump administration is making strides to help veterans transition from military to civilian life, particularly those at greater risk of suicide.

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