In the News
Source: Ripon Advance
Oct 02 2017
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) is fighting to make it easier for veterans to access mental health treatment, while at the same time incentivizing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to hire more mental health professionals, under legislation she reintroduced last week.
The Prioritizing Veterans Access to Mental Health Care Act of 2017 would allow for instant authorization of non-VA mental health treatment if a veteran provides a statement of dissatisfaction with VA care. It would also eliminate the Veterans Choice Program’s requirement that a veteran has to be at least 40 miles from a VA mental health care provider to qualify for outside treatment.
“We tragically lose 20 veterans a day to suicide, according to the VA,” Ernst said. “Selfless men and women who sacrificed years ago, often in dangerous and hostile environments, should not become victims of suicide when they return home. We can and must do better. At some centers in Iowa, thousands of veterans still experience wait times for mental health care appointments greater than 30 days. That is entirely unacceptable.”
Ernst first introduced the Prioritizing Veterans’ Access to Mental Health Care Act in 2015. She reintroduced the bill on Thursday with original cosponsors U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and John Cornyn (R-TX).
“The Prioritizing Veterans’ Access to Mental Health Care Act provides an option for our veterans to receive mental health treatment with VA Choice Act providers, until they can receive the comprehensive mental health care treatment at the VA they deserve,” said Ernst, a combat veteran.
The VA would have 90 days to implement changes outlined in the bill after enactment.