VA Extends Mental Healthcare to Veterans Not Honorably Discharged

By Sandra Basu

WASHINGTON — In his first appearance before Congress as VA Secretary, David Shulkin, MD, said that “there is no other clinical issue” that concerns him as much as veteran suicides.

            “What we are doing now, and we are doing a lot, is not enough. We are not satisfied, and we are continuing to look for new approaches to be able to address this issue,” he said.

            In light of that, Shulkin told lawmakers that VA’s intends to expand provisions for urgent mental health care  provided to former servicemembers with other-than-honorable (OTH) administrative discharges. 

According to the VA, this is “the first time a VA Secretary has implemented an initiative specifically focused on expanding access to assist former OTH servicemembers who are in mental health distress and may be at risk for suicide or other adverse behaviors.”

 VA estimates that there are a little more than 500,000 former service members with OTH discharges. As part of the proposal, former OTH service members would be able to seek treatment at a VA emergency department, Vet Center or contact the Veterans Crisis Line, the agency explained.

“So many veterans that we see are just disconnected from our system,” Shulkin told the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Noting that an estimated 20 veterans take their own lives each day, he added, “As you know, 14 [of those] are not getting care in the VA and yet we have this great comprehensive mental health system. We are going to do whatever we can.”

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  1. Rich Poliska says:

    I am the “Sponsor” for the Incarcerated Veterans at Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas. I represent 125 Honorably Discharged Veterans who cannot get help with PTSD. There is also an unknown number of OTH Discharged Veterans at this Unit that I am not allowed to represent, per the Warden, who also have PTSD. How can we get them the help they have earned?

  2. Rich Poliska says:

    The Choice Program is a joke. I live 46 miles from the nearest facility where I can get care (not a Clinic which only refers you to the nearest facility). The VA Hospital is downtown in the 4th largest city in the U.S. My travel time is 3 hrs. to fight traffic and find parking.
    I am rated at 50% disabled with PTSD. I get panic attacks driving to this facility and endanger myself and others on the road, yet the Choice Program doesn’t take that into consideration. They only consider how far I am from a Clinic. How am I suppose to get care?

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