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Arlington, Va., March 13, 2019 — Landmark legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate today to help reduce veteran suicides and improve mental health outcomes by implementing changes at the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to increase access to mental health care, expand diagnostic research and authorize new programs to combat veteran suicides.
The Commander John Scott Hannon VA Mental Health Improvement Act of 2019 was introduced by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS). The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) applauds their effort to improve veterans’ mental health. We are proud to support this bill and celebrate the legacy of retired Navy SEAL Commander John Scott Hannon, who served for 23 years, and fought a courageous battle with post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and bipolar disorder. CDR Hannon embodies the strength of veterans living with mental health conditions, and this bill exemplifies his passion and efforts to improve access to veterans’ mental health care as a member of NAMI Montana.
NAMI worked with a bipartisan group of legislators on key components of the bill including increasing access and continuity of care for veterans in need of coordinated support. NAMI advocates to improve mental health and brain condition diagnostics because an accurate and quick diagnosis has the potential to save countless lives and is a critical step to effective care. We are dedicated to working with the VA, legislators and researchers to improve the process and get veterans the treatment and care they need for their recovery.
“As a friend of Commander John Scott Hannon and a long-time mental health advocate for America’s veterans, I am proud to offer my full support of this legislation,” said Matt Kuntz, Executive Director, NAMI Montana. “Commander Hannon believed that the VA mental health care system, like every system, needs to take concrete steps to improve its ability to conduct its mission. This bill is a tangible step in the right direction of ensuring that every veteran has the right care available to them at the right time.”
NAMI is particularly pleased the following provisions are included in the bill:
Provides for VA health care eligibility for a full year after transitioning from the Armed Forces
Increases access to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) through a digital, computerized CBT program as a supplement to VA mental health care
Creates the Precision Medicine for Veterans Initiative, modeled after NIH’s All of Us program, to identify and validate brain and mental health biomarkers, with a focus on mental health disorders
Provides $10 million in funding to increase availability and the number of locations for VA telehealth care
Requires the Government Accountability Office to report on and provide a thorough analysis of the VA’s current programs and protocols for accessing veterans at high-risk for suicide, with increased accountability from the VA
While we continue to tragically lose veterans each day, CDR Hannon and others like him are not forgotten by fellow veterans, family and friends who are grateful for the time shared with them. This bill will endeavor to make improvements to VA mental health care that will have a lasting effect on the future of the diagnosis and treatment for mental health conditions, with the goal of saving lives.
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