March 22, 2018

Trump signs order expanding mental health benefits for veterans

10 January 2018, 11:19 | Lena Norman

Trump signs order expanding mental health benefits for veterans

Trump signs executive order to reduce suicide among recent veterans

The president signed a new executive order Tuesday titled "Supporting Our Veterans During Their Transition from Uniformed Service to Civilian Life".

VA Secretary David Shulkin pledged that in 60 days, the VA will begin offering a full year of mental health care to all departing service members.

Trump signed laws a year ago aimed at expediting the appeals process for veterans' benefits and extending the so-called choice program, which allows veterans more choices about where they get health care when the VA can't provide it.

"They get out of the military and they have nobody to talk to", Trump said as he signed the order. "These dedicated men and women have put their lives on the line to protect our nation and our American way of life, and we owe them a debt we can never repay". It calls for automatic enrollment in mental health care for one year after discharge, regardless of combat experience.

Veterans Affairs Commissioner David Shulkin said officials estimate that about 20 veterans a day take their own lives.

"That is just an unacceptable number, and we are focused on doing everything we can to prevent these veterans' suicides", Shulkin said.

Shulkin said suicide among veterans is his top clinical priority, and that he determined that people who have left the military within a year are between 1 1/2 to two times as likely to commit suicide as any other age group.

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Under the president's order, the three departments will come up with a plan to provide USA servicemen and women with 12 months of mental health benefits after they leave active duty.

- Expand peer community outreach and group sessions in the VA Whole Health initiative from 18 Whole Health flagship facilities to all facilities.

The Defense Department also will expand the services of its Military OneSource program to apply to veterans for a full year after leaving the military, rather than 180 days, said one US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the plan's specifics.

White House officials said the Department of Defense also plans to start the transition process sooner, so it's less abrupt, although the details and timetables are still being worked out.

"I am committed to reducing veteran suicides through support and education".

According to the VA, approximately 20 veterans died by suicide each day in 2014.

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