“Currently, the average wait time for a mental health appointment at the VA is 36 days. We can – and must – do better for our veterans.”  

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) today announced growing support of the Prioritizing Veterans’ Access to Mental Health Care Act. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and John Cornyn (R-TX) have joined as original co-sponsors of the bill, in addition to endorsements by the Wounded Warrior Project and Concerned Veterans for America.

This important legislation puts veterans’ mental health care first and provides a back-stop to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mental health care treatment, and prioritizes incentives to hire more mental health care professionals at the VA.

Currently, the average wait time for a mental health appointment at the VA is 36 days,” said Senator Ernst. “We can – and must – do better for our veterans. This legislation provides an option for our veterans to receive mental health treatment with VA Choice Act providers, until they can receive comprehensive mental health care treatment at the VA. I’m grateful for the growing support of this important legislation to ensure our veterans have access to the timely mental health care they rightly deserve.”

“A veteran at risk for suicide can’t afford any delay in treatment,” said Senator Grassley.  “He or she needs mental health treatment as soon as possible.  As a matter of common sense, sometimes the first available facility is outside the VA system.  This bill is a good idea to help veterans get the care they need when they need it.”

“North Carolina is home to nearly 800,000 veterans, and that population is growing every day,” said Senator Tillis. “Unfortunately, we have not even begun to get a handle on the mental health needs of the many brave men and women who have served our nation. This legislation is an important first step towards getting more mental health professionals into the VA system and giving veterans the ability to quickly access mental health services when the VA cannot meet their needs.”

“We can’t allow bureaucratic hurdles to stand in the way of veterans receiving prompt, accessible mental health care,” said Senator Cornyn. “When they can’t wait for care, they shouldn’t have to, and this bill will help ensure veterans get the treatment they need.”

“The Prioritizing Veterans’ Access to Mental Health Care Act of 2015 addresses the unacceptable wait times for mental health care at many VA facilities by giving veterans more control over their own health care- not VA bureaucrats,” said Pete Hegseth, CEO of Concerned Veterans for America. “It is outrageous that even after the implementation of the Choice Card program, veterans are still waiting on average over 30 days for a mental health care appointment, and we are grateful that Senators Ernst, Grassley, Tillis, and Cornyn are proposing concrete solutions to help get veterans the care they deserve.”

 

About the Prioritizing Veterans’ Access to Mental Health Care Act:

  • Amends the Veterans’ Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 to allow a veteran instant authorization of non-VA care if the veteran provides an electronic or hard-copy statement in writing that they are not receiving adequate or timely mental health care at the VA. 
  • Eliminates the 40-mile and VA wait-time triggers for mental health care only under the Choice Act. 
  • Prioritizes incentives for the hiring of mental health care professionals at VA. 
  • Uses Choice Act funds to pay for the bill. 
  • Provides the VA 90 days to enact the program.

 

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