Senate clears Shaheen and Hassan-cosponsored veterans mental health and suicide prevention legislation
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act – bipartisan legislation cosponsored by U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) – to improve veterans’ access to mental health care. This landmark legislation is a comprehensive and aggressive approach to connect more veterans with mental health care. This bill will bolster the VA’s mental health workforce and increase rural or hard-to-reach veterans’ access to VA care, while making sure veterans have access to alternative and local treatment options. The legislation was introduced by U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Jon Tester (D-MT).
“Our veterans make tremendous sacrifices in service to our nation, which is why we owe them the best care available when they come home. This is especially critical for mental health issues, which in the veteran community, often go unnoticed or unaddressed. With many veterans isolated from their loved ones and facing new challenges accessing the treatment they need due to the pandemic, this legislation is urgently needed,” said Senator Shaheen. “This bipartisan bill is a step towards fulfilling America’s sacred promise to our veterans and makes important investments in expanding access to lifesaving mental health services and bolstering critical veteran suicide prevention efforts. I am proud of this bill’s unanimous, bipartisan passage through the Senate and urge the House of Representatives to act as soon as possible to help ensure our veterans can get the help and support they need to live healthy, happy lives.”
“This bipartisan bill would expand mental health services to our country’s veterans and help ensure that these brave men and women receive the support that they need, especially as they transition to civilian life. I urge my colleagues in the House to pass this bipartisan bill as soon as possible,” Senator Hassan said.
It is estimated that more than 20 veterans die by suicide every day. Of those, 14 have received no treatment or care from the VA. The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act will improve outreach to veterans and their mental healthcare options in five major ways:
Bolster the VA’s mental health workforce to serve more veterans by giving the VA direct hiring authority for more mental health professions, offering scholarships to mental health professionals to work at Vet Centers, and placing at least one Suicide Prevention Coordinator in every VA hospital.
Improve rural veterans’ access to mental healthcare by increasing the number of locations at which veterans can access VA telehealth services and offering grants to non-VA organizations that provide mental health services or alternative treatment to veterans.
Study and invest in innovative treatment options by expanding veterans’ access to alternative programs and investing in VA research on veterans’ suicide risk and identifying and treating mental illness.
Hold the VA accountable for its mental healthcare and suicide prevention efforts by examining how the VA manages its suicide prevention resources and how the VA provides seamless care and information sharing for veterans seeking mental healthcare from both the VA and community providers.
Establish a grant program that requires the VA to better collaborate with community organizations across the country already serving veterans. This collaboration will result in earlier identification of veterans who are at risk of suicide and will provide the ability to intervene with preventive services.