Editorial Roundup: Get mental health care to all veterans
Published 10:00 pm Sunday, November 26, 2017
Combat veterans have faced horrors most of us never have to deal with or can truly imagine. Many of those veterans need the professional mental health care services that can help them adjust as they return to their lives and careers.
Unfortunately a large group of veterans have no access to services at the Veterans Affairs Department because they had less-than-honorable discharges from the military.
That could change if the U.S. Senate follows the lead of the House and passes a bill that would require the VA to provide vets with mental health assessments as well as treatment for urgent mental health care needs like suicide risk. It also would mandate a VA study to evaluate the effect of combat experience on veterans’ mental health.
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Currently, only honorably discharged vets have access to those services The Government Accountability Office found 62 percent of 91,764 service members with less-than-honorable discharges over a five year period were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or other mental health problems. Those conditions in many if not most cases contributed to problems that led to the less-than-honorable discharges.
While the proposed legislation acknowledges that the trauma of combat itself often contributes to a person’s discharge from the service, the law would not provide the mental health coverage to service members whose conduct was so severe they received a dishonorable or bad-conduct discharge.
The expansion of mental health care for veterans can be nothing but good for the veterans and for society. The severity of the problems are clear. According to the VA, roughly 20 veterans commit suicide each day, and veterans have a 22 percent higher risk than other Americans.
When young men and women are asked to go through the horrors of battle for our country, they deserve help to try to make them whole again mentally, even if they left the service under less than ideal circumstances.
— Mankato Free Press, Nov. 21