From: The Honorable Matt Cartwright
Sent By: Mae.Stevens@mail.house.gov
Bill: H.R. 1725
Date: 7/15/2014

Cosponsor H.R. 1725 – The Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act

Cosponsors (88):  Barber, Bass, Beatty, Brady, Bustos, Butterfield, Capps, Cardenas, Carson, Christensen, Chu, Cohen, Connolly, Conyers, Davis, DeFazio, Delaney, DeLauro, Deutch, Doggett, Ellison, Enyart, Eshoo, Esty, Fattah, Frankel, Gabbard, Grijalva, Hahn, Hastings, Heck, Higgins, Hinojosa, Holt, Honda, Horsford, Huffman, Jackson Lee, Johnson, Jones, Kaptur, Keating, Kelly, Kildee, Kilmer, Kind, Kirkpatrick, Kuster, Larsen, Lee, Loebsack, Lowey, Lujan Grisham, McCarthy, McCollum, McDermott,McGovern, McNerney, Meeks, Murphy, Napolitano, Neal, Nolan, Norton, O’Rourke, Pascrell, Pastor, Peters, Peterson, Pingree, Price, Quigley, Rangel, Ruiz, Rush, Ryan, Schakowsky, Schiff, Scott, Serrano, Shea-Porter, Sinema, Slaughter, Speier, Takano, Tonko, Veasey, Waters

Supporting Organizations: AMVETS, American Veterans for Equal Rights, The Retired Enlisted Association, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America, Military Order of the Purple Heart

Dear Colleague,

Sixty years after the establishment of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), we must renew our commitment to provide the men and women who have served our country in uniform with the healthcare services they have earned. I encourage you to protect veterans’ right to mental healthcare treatment and services by supporting the Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act, which I will be introducing in the next few weeks.

The VA offers healthcare treatment and services to our nation’s veterans who suffer from service-related physical or mental disabilities. While the diagnosis of physical injuries typically is made before or shortly after separation from the military, mental illnesses may not manifest themselves until years later. Serious mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder were virtually undiagnosed in veterans of conflicts previous to Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), having only been added by the to the American Psychiatric Association to the third edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) nosologic classification scheme in 1980. As the United States military and the VA continue to improve treatment for those who have served, there remains a gap for veterans struggling with mental illnesses.

Currently, OEF and OIF veterans face a five-year window in which they must seek treatment for mental illnesses before losing their higher priority status. Veterans from previous wars face much harsher bureaucratic obstacles. Based on these statistics, it is clear that a large number of veterans from earlier military operations may be struggling with mental illnesses that went undiagnosed during the first five years after service, and may still be undiagnosed to this day.

This bill would eliminate the five-year window and allow veterans who served in combat from all military operations to seek treatment for service-connected mental illnesses, regardless of when their conditions manifest themselves. The Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act would make the services and treatments that are available to OEF and OIF veterans available to all veterans who have served in combat in previous military operations such as the Second World War, the Korean War, and Vietnam. This bill maintains the role of the VA to treat only service-related disorders and allows its healthcare professionals to diagnose mental disorders and illnesses according to established procedures.

I invite you to join me and to help ensure that the veterans living in your district and the veterans across America enjoy access to the healthcare benefits they have earned. Please contact Mae Stevens on my staff for more information at x-55546 orMae.Stevens@mail.house.gov to co-sponsor this important piece of legislation.

Sincerely,

Matt Cartwright

Member of Congress