Published: Wed, January 10, 2018
Health | By Jay Jacobs

Trump signs order expanding mental health benefits for veterans

Trump signs order expanding mental health benefits for veterans

President Donald Trump on Tuesday ordered the secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs to come up with a plan to improve mental health care for US veterans.

Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin says veterans will be able to use VA or the private sector.

"Currently, up until your executive order, only 40 percent of those service members had coverage in the VA to get mental health", Shulkin said at a White House signing ceremony.

"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.

The order will take effect March 9 and is expected to provide all new veterans with mental-health care for at least a year after they leave the military. "It's a very sad situation". "They're the people we should be focusing on". An estimated 20 USA veterans die by suicide each day, and President Trump previous year tasked incoming VA Secretary David Shulkin with getting that number to zero.

VA Secretary David Shulkin says mental health is his top clinical priority.

Veterans who received an other-than-honorable discharge will continue to be eligible only for emergency services, officials said.

The order directs the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs to submit a plan within 60 days to provide "seamless access to mental health treatment and suicide prevention resources".

The program will likely include expanded services for veterans, including intensive therapy, peer support and the "Whole Health" model of group support for servicemen and women.

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. "During this critical phase, many transitioning service members may not qualify for enrollment in health care", he said. Join us in a conversation about world events, the newsgathering process or whatever aspect of the news universe you find interesting or important.

"I am committed to reducing veteran suicides through support and education".

According to a VA study released in 2016, the risk of suicide was 19 percent higher among male veterans than male civilians, and 2 1/2 times higher among female veterans than civilian women.

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