VA secretary announces intention to expand mental health care to former Servicemembers with other-than-honorable discharges and in crisis


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VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin, while testifying in a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing  March 7, 2017, announced his intention to expand provisions for urgent mental health care needs to former service members with other-than-honorable (OTH) administrative discharges.  This move marks the first time a VA secretary has implemented an initiative specifically focused on expanding access to assist former OTH Servicemembers who are in mental health distress and may be at risk for suicide or other adverse behaviors.

“The president and I have made it clear that suicide prevention is one or our top priorities,” Shulkin said. “We know the rate of death by suicide among Veterans who do not use VA care is increasing at a greater rate than Veterans who use VA care. This is a national emergency that requires bold action. We must and we will do all that we can to help former Servicemembers who may be at risk. When we say even one Veteran suicide is one too many, we mean it.”

It is estimated that there are a little more than 500,000 former Servicemembers with OTH discharges. As part of the proposal, former OTH Servicemembers would be able to seek treatment at a VA emergency department, Vet Center or contact the Veterans Crisis Line.

“Our goal is simple: to save lives,” Shulkin continued. “Veterans who are in crisis should receive help immediately. Far too many Veterans have fallen victim to suicide, roughly 20 every day. Far too many families are left behind asking themselves what more could have been done. The time for action is now.”

Before finalizing the plan in early summer, Shulkin will meet with Congress, Veterans service organizations and Department of Defense officials to determine the best way forward to get these former Servicemembers the care they need.

“I look forward to working with leaders like Congressman Mike Coffman from Colorado, who has been a champion for OTH Servicemembers,” Shulkin added. “I am grateful for his commitment to our nation’s Veterans and for helping me better understand the urgency of getting this right.”

Veterans in crisis should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (press 1), or text 838255.

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Comments

  1. Jeffrey Brown    

    How will this expansion be funded?

    1. Edward Swisher    

      More than likely by Congress… I have watched many budget hearings (for VA) over the years, and have seen/heard where Congressmen have told previous Secretaries of Veterans Affairs to come back with some “real” numbers and Congress would be more than happy to fund VA more fully….. and that “Robbing Peter to pay Paul” is not the answer…because Peter was still getting screwed. We don’t need “bean counters” in management positions….we need people (veterans, preferably) that know and care about the situation/needs of our fellow veterans who are not afraid to ask/present to Congress the many issues that need to be fully funded, to include adequate (staffing) of the VBA…and even more so, the medical facilities. Intentional, chronic short-staffing is a severe injustice to veteran patients, their loved one AND the medical, nursing and ancillary staffs who care. “Doing more with less” is often the result of decisions by those that do not and/or are not actually doing the work. Everyone suffers. Been there and done that as a veteran patient and nurse.

      1. liz    

        Edward Swisher..So very well Said, Bravo. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post, enlightened by your experience and not afraid to post it. Wish there were more like you. After a decade of being a patient of the VA System, I can see only broken promises and a deaf ear from our Elected Officials and Appointed Secretary. They don’t hear me…..

  2. OLDMARINE    

    they cant even handle the ones that are already in the mental health system and they are going to expand on it for instance vet committed suicide in va parking lot or the one that set himself in front of a VA hospital…just another con job for more money===bonuses i think you need to give better treatment to the ones you already have….every mental so called health professional i ever met needed a straight jacket for themselves they are the real nut-jobs ….I need to add that they wouldn’t know if a baby farted or shit their pants even after the diaper was opened

    1. caleb    

      That’s very ignorant of you oldmarine, please open your heart up a little and realize everyone deserves the help if they need it. I just had a close friend of mine from my time in the marine corps as a grunt kill himself. He had a wife and a kid. He also happens to be a part of that 500000 that got an OTH. He also was an excellent marine, and a great person that just got screwed over from the hierarchy system our government loves so much. Ohh just blame the person at the bottom he has less to lose is what i’m sure went through their minds. Now he is dead, so try to have a little compassion for others.

      1. OLDMARINE    

        CALEB your the ignorant one ,I never mentioned not to give it to people that got screwed with bad paper ….and I damn sure wasn’t complaining about the VET’S at the bottom, the problem is at the TOP ……….. THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE IS THE DAY I DROP OVER DEAD…..but until then I don’t give up fighting their crooked denial letters

      2. OLDMARINE    

        AND CALEB LOOK THIS UP …..An NPR investigation found that despite $2.5 billion in special funding, VA added no more doctors and other clinicians than without the extra money…………………..and if you really want to educate yourself watch this on utube……..The Most SHOCKING Psychiatry Documentary EVER …………you just might learn something about quacks

    2. Mindy    

      Oldmarine,

      I know a bit of what you are saying.

      My father was in wwii, got a purple heart and bronze star yet, the va refused to help him, in any way, when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s /PTSD.

      I was 33 years old when I began caring for him. He lived another 13 years. He was bedridden and incoherent for the last eight years of his life.

      I honored him and his service to this country by caring for him at home. I refused to put him in a nursing home on Medicaid.

      I think the VA disgraced my father and his service to this country’s freedom.

      1. Greg Simpson    

        Mindy,

        I can relate to your experience because my father is on a rehab nursing home after falling once again. We cant afford almost $6,000 a month for subpar nursing home care. The room he is in is half the size of a small bedroom, tiny. And he as a roomate in that tiny room, separating them only with a cloth divider.

        He is also a WWII vet. Turned down by VA twice. Turned down by Medicaid twice although he owns no home or property but has a measly $9,000 to his name. He also is in the early stages of dementia.

        I’m 63, been mentally disabled and unable to work for 11 years. Lost my house. Living in a garage of a friend. I cannot get any assistance for Medicare premiums or prescription insurance, with 2 not covered by any prescription plan. So that costs me $800 a month with my only income being social security. I’ve tried for VA Assistance and been turned down.

        I truly admire your sacrifices for your father Mindy.

      2. OLDMARINE    

        MINDY i truly respect your sacrifice

    3. OLDMARINE    

      another excellent video to watch……..Psychiatry in the Military: The Hidden Enemy—Full Documentary………..on utube….there is no science behind any of it, watch it. its a eye opener

  3. Robert Roseman    

    Amen to that last post. Those coucelors don’t knowí what to do or say. They just give us the pills that make us feel worst or should I say crazyer…

  4. Raymond Gordon    

    We appreciate the VA’s efforts. Thank you.

  5. JWJ    

    The VA is expanding mental healthcare, though recently I’ve been told that I need to go to a newly opened annex for PTSD Group and to see a new psychiatrist. What the VA doesn’t consider is that I’ve been going to the same group and seeing the same Dr. for 7 years! Now they want me to just ditch all the relationships and bonds? Hell no! They won’t pay travel either. WTF! I used to think somewhat well of the VA, though now they’re on my Sh!t list! There are many fellow vets that are extremely pissed at this BS! They should allow vets that have been treated at the same facility for over five years to remain and pay them travel! What a bunch of DA bureaucrats!

  6. Lawana Porter    

    What happened to the “investigation” regarding the 10’s of thousands troops diagnosed with PTSD/TBI and then immediately discharged with OTH on their DD214? Maybe you need to clear that miscarriage of justice up while you’re at it.

    1. Linda Oakes    

      Maybe this is the panacea for that.

  7. Jerry Borsh    

    How about just covering the PCE poisoning from Camp Lejeune caused neurobehavioral mental health issues? Free counseling but nothing to address the financial impact over the years. Easier to get welfare, food stamps and ssdi than VA compensation. Veterans need to be an organized voting block to be recognized and treated fairly.

  8. Teresa A Walker    

    I agree, I have been experiencing flashbacks since 2014 of the dead bodies. The physicians seemingly just recommend drugging us, even when they don’t work.

  9. Rudy Gostischa    

    While I agree that resources are slim already, I will gladly wait longer or get less if another vet in need can be saved. Often “OTH” is directly related to the veteran’s mental stability while in the service and this was just one way to discharge them without any liability. I am sure that isn’t the case every time but any life saved is worth it.

  10. SARA YON    

    This is complete BS. My brothers said it right is just something else to put in someones’ damn bonus or award. The VA can’t EVEN get the service right for those of us that are 100% PTSD combat veterans. I have had my appointment with my shrink damn twice and when I call to get medication I have to wait 2 weeks to get a call back. I hate complainers so I won’t complain but there is a reason why a Veteran gets discharged with OTH. Can the VA, get the service for the veterans that are HONORABLY discharged right first? This whole 500,000 other veterans on the wait list, only pushes back and delays the medical service for those already in the system. Not too mention the loop holes and wait times we have to wait to even be considered for services.

  11. John Petrichella    

    How about a damn decent raise in VA Compensation payments to those with service connected disabilities ???

    1. John Petrichella    

      And how about an answer to my question.above if moderator allow it ???

    2. Dewey Flowers    

      I agree…I haven’t got a raise in 8 years in my va disability and the cost of living has increased an insane amount to where I live paycheck to paycheck

  12. Marlene Trujillo    

    Have you ever called the Suicide Hotline? Not worth a crap! They have absolutely no compassion or mercy. And if your calling for any other reason then suicide they are curt and don’t want to give you the time of day. They Pretty much dismiss you. And if you do call with suicidal ideation they don’t want to hear it. The people that answer the suicide hotline calls are assholes. If you didn’t already feel like committing suicide, you really feel like it after talking to them. The pretty much don’t give a rat’s behind about you! They are not nice, curt, rude, and unprofessional. Never call them if you need help. Call a kinder organization, like a local mental health care facility Suicide Hotline. What a darn shame! If you don’t believe call them and see for yourself!

    1. Dewey Flowers    

      I agree…I called once and they were apathetic as he’ll just like the rest of the va and I hung up

    2. Rex Bravo    

      Here’s a brain buster. GO LEARN A FREAKING SKILL, and get a job! Pay check to paycheck, and getting disability money. Unless all your arms and legs are blown off, you have no freaking excuse.

      Freaking embarrassing. Fix yourself.

  13. Marlene Trujillo    

    Why don’t they train the staff at the Suicide hotline on loving kindness.

  14. William Darcy    

    VA services should include outreach to Veterans currently disabled by mental health. For example call them in to monitor their lives and related issues. They just keep feeding them disability payments thereby enabling them to wither away from alcoholism, drug addiction with no oversight from the VA.

  15. Presley Robertson    

    Amen to OLDMARINE….. V.A. need to take care of the mental veterans that they see now. Need doctors who are caring. My husband was fighting DEPRESSION for 3 years and they did nothing. So he finally took his life Sept. 2016.

    1. Shara Jones    

      I’m very sorry for your loss. My heart and prayers go out to you. It is not easy living with some of the things us Veterans have to live with and the VA is failing us all!

  16. w r warner    

    the vets have done all right with me,viet nam combat vet,would not be here if not for the vets .thank you vets addmin for help,may I saddest to other vets start takeing care of yourself and loose weight if you want better health???

    1. William Riddle    

      I’m sorry for you’re loss. I had a close call. With the VA.

    2. Shara Jones    

      It’s not just about losing weight… are you serious? Some Veterans have so many health issues that they can’t lose (as it is properly spelled) weight. Or on a variety of medications that cause weight gain. I’m glad you have received the care you needed but you are out of line by stating what you did!

      1. OLDMARINE    

        AMEN SHARA i am 6 foot 150 i guess i need to loose weight also

  17. William Bond    

    Having served during the 70’s, I find myself in need of these Mental Health Professionals. That being said we should ask as did Jeffrey Brown (above.) Who will finance this new burden on an already strapped budget? I have been unable to see a Psychiatrist in over a year and before that, I had a change in doctor 4 times n the past 10 years. I say yes to more funding for the VA, yes in expanding Mental health to encompass all of those in need. But to do so means HIRE Some New Docs.

  18. Richard Orefice    

    I wish the VA would learn to distinguish between all those who served and those that spent a year or so in combat. I’m an 0311 Marine who fought eye ball to eye ball in RVN. Shouldn’t my chronic, severe PTSD and differences between my experiences be recognized? I have had a claim with the VA since 2002 with no recognition of it’s existence since. My rep doesn’t return my emails. Do I have to give 20% to a lawyer to get what I deserve. File # 26 043 783.

    1. liz    

      Richard-if you are stressing like this for a Combat rating, Yes, go on one of those ytube videos, and get an Attorney. Let them help you win this once and for all

  19. W. Kerker    

    This is B.S. the VA can’t handle those of us with good papers and now they want to cater to those with bad papers, what ever happened to duty and honor.

  20. clarence e gould    

    Honorably discharged, diagnosed with combat ptsd, can’t keep a job due to anxiety and depression, anger, isolation, many days of going hungry , hard to make ends meet when you don’t trust anyone long enough to even get a job, tried to get financial help,talked to a rep. And he showed he was discussed with me for even thinking I had ptsd let alone asking for help, was told no by the rep because I had no combat infantry badge even though I went to combat. Hard for a honorably discharged veteran to get help and now the va is going to offer services to other than honorably discharged veterans, wow if I had known this when I was told to load up your going to a war zone I should have went AWOL, or better yet just gotten myself killed over there who cares anyway, the va needs to care more about the vets that have mental health issues already in the system. Honorably discharged doesn’t mean anything. Well enough said, the va is going to do what they want no matter what.
    Sgt Gould

  21. steven smith    

    YEA OLDMARINE!!! I agree with you completely. My nut psychiatrist lied to my face. Has a habit of laughing at my frustration, and gave me, (a veteran), experimental drugs that threw my body into convulsions biting clear through my tongue. Then another that made me impotent and caused severe mental impairment for months. Snug smiling and sure she has full protection from litigation or? reprimand.

    1. marflotru@gmail.com    

      They’ve been using me as a Guinea Pig for years. I’ve probably taken every mental medication known to mankind. What about the military using women veterans as a harem. Been going on forever! Yet nobody does a damn thing to stop it. Did you hear the news about the marines sharing photos of female vets. DISGUSTING!!!! It’s always been that way, I know for a fact because it happened to ME!

  22. D.D. Dixon    

    So this means that I will wait even longer for mental health care because I must wait behind people with service characterized less than honorable. Ever think it was pre-existing condition and needs to be addressed by ACA? This is just a way to include more people into the VA health care system to get out of congressional nuisance. We get more and more cuts into our resources and longer wait times!

  23. Shara Jones    

    This REALLY bothers me! My co-worker is a 26 year Retired Veteran that was Honorably Discharged that was having severe anxiety problems after she was attacked by her dog. The wounds on her arm and leg were so bad that she had to go to wound care (which she paid for with her private – Tricare insurance to avoid dealing with the VA). The attack was a freak occurrence and she is an avid animal lover so she could not put her dog down. She got an appt. at the VA with her primary right away but she would not prescribe anti-anxiety medication. She referred her to mental health. Mental health made her an appt. for a MONTH AND A HALF out!!! That’s just as bad as calling the VA number for an emotional crisis or feeling suicidal and having to stop grab pen and paper to write down a different 1-800 number! Seriously!!! Take care of the Honorable Vets first!!

  24. michael e hadley    

    the va cant and wont help those with good discharges as it it health care is sub par veterans choice is a joke you go into crisis and go to the va you are lucky to be in patient for 3 days then you are discharged to the streets we need help not just lip service

  25. Jim Call    

    I have received very good medical care at the VA in Utah. I have a 100% total and permanent disability for PTSD and I am an honorably discharged Vietnam vet. However, my psychiatric care has not been good at all. I have had and currently have doctors (3 of them) that I would rate as horrible. I have had 3 that I say were excellent. 1 was transferred to another dept. and the other 2 left to pursue a more lucrative position elsewhere. I have filled out the necessary forms requesting a new psychiatrist but the mental health care coordinator has yet to call me. Since the VA in my case has a 50% fail rate I don’t know what to expect.I had to resort to seeing a private psychiatrist at my own expense. WTF.

  26. Daniel Bryant    

    I finally reached out to the VA about my PTSD and suicidal thoughts and anger issues in early January, I have yet to hear from anyone reguarding my plea for help. Like many, it is extremely hard to admit the weakness I feel when I talk about my inability to control my mental issues. When I’m at my lowest and finally suck it up and reach out, I’m still waiting, after 3 months later to even hear from the VA ( I already have a disability rating from the VA and I’m technically in the system). It’s hard to believe the propaganda about how much the government, including the VA care about us, when all the actions prove otherwise.

  27. Nancy Detwiler-Nordyke    

    I have PTSD due to MST. I was gang raped and sodomized in basic. When I reported it, it got swept under the rug and no formal record was made. I still have nightmares, but finally able to get into a VA therapist. The physical effects are still not covered and I doubt they will ever be. I’m a suicide attempt survivor, my husband is supportive, but I still have the physical symptoms because of my assault and they aren’t covered.

  28. Cruz Garcia    

    I have contacted my local VA office to talk with a mental health care ‘professional’. I was assigned to a young lady who asked me why I was there and then proceeded to ask me a long series of written down questions which had absolutely nothing to do with my issue. When I tried to refocus her to talking about why I was seeking help, she smiled and just went on with her list. My 50 minutes were quickly up and she said to call the front desk to set up another appointment so she could complete the written questionnaire.

    I never did but did use a nutrition program there. She walked by and saw me then proceeded to whisper something to a co-worker and they both looked at me and laughed. That behavior really turned me off and I decided never to go back for mental help. When I go there for vaccinations, etc and I see her, I literally shake my head at her then turn my back to her.

    I don’t know how she got that job, much less how she is still employed there. This is one of the major issues with VA care.

  29. Carlo Taylor    

    You guys need to work on the wait time first.

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