Senate Passes Hoeven-Cosponsored Legislation to Improve VA Mental Health Treatment Options

Legislation Expands VA Research into HBOT, Increases Mental Health Workforce & Improves Access to VA Telehealth in Rural Areas

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, a member of the Senate Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement after the Senate passed the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019, bipartisan legislation he cosponsored to improve outreach to veterans and offer new mental health treatment options under the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Among other things, the legislation builds on Hoeven’s work to expand access to alternative treatment options for post-traumatic stress (PTS), including hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).

“Our veterans deserve access to the best care, and this legislation we’ve advanced takes important steps to strengthen the VA’s mental health care options,” said Hoeven. “Importantly, the bill supports access to alternative treatments for PTS and other mental health challenges, like we’ve worked to do under the HBOT demonstration project at the Fargo VA. We welcome the legislation’s passage in the Senate, and will continue our efforts to ensure our veterans receive the benefits and recognition they have earned.”

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.