House Passes Hoeven-Cosponsored Legislation to Improve VA Mental Health, Suicide Prevention Services
WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today issued the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation he cosponsored to strengthen mental health services and suicide prevention efforts at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Introduced by Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019 will improve outreach to veterans, including those in rural, hard-to-serve areas, and provide them the mental health care they need and have earned, while also improving access to alternative treatment options.
Hoeven helped secure Senate passage of the legislation in August and recently joined his fellow cosponsors in pressing the House leadership to take up the bill. The legislation will now go to the president to be signed into law.
“This legislation advances a comprehensive approach to address the tragedy of veteran suicide, and builds on our efforts to improve access to alternative treatments for post-traumatic stress, like hyperbaric oxygen therapy,” said Hoeven, a member of the Senate Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Committee. “Having now passed both chambers of Congress, we look forward to this bill being signed into law. This is another important step to ensure our veterans receive the health care, benefits and recognition they deserve.”
Specifically, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019 includes the following provisions to:
- Expand the VA’s research into HBOT. Requires the VA to study and report on the effectiveness of this alternative treatment option in partnership with private organizations, a provision offered by Senator Kevin Cramer.
- Increase the capacity of the VA’s mental health workforce by:
- Giving the VA direct hiring authority for more mental health professionals.
- Offering scholarships to mental health professionals working at Vet Centers.
- Placing at least one Suicide Prevention Coordinator at each VA medical center.
- Improve rural veterans’ access to mental health care services by:
- Increasing the number of locations at which veterans can access VA telehealth services.
- Offering grants to non-VA organizations that provide mental health services or alternative treatments to veterans.
- Establish a grant program to enhance collaboration between the VA and community organizations across the country in order to more quickly identify veterans who are at risk of suicide and provide them with preventive services.
- Hold the VA accountable for its mental health care and suicide prevention efforts.
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