From: The Honorable Mike Coffman
Sent By: mike.wakefield@mail.house.gov
Bill: H.R. 4684
Date: 5/24/2016

Current Cosponsors: Kilmer, Rice, Costello, Jones, O’Rourke, King, Gabbard

Current Supportive Organizations:  Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)

 

Dear Colleague,

I invite you to cosponsor H.R. 4684, the Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act.

A less than honorable discharge, or “bad paper” discharge, is often issued to servicemembers for minor misconduct, including being late to formation and poor attendance.  These actions, however, can be linked with behavior seen in servicemembers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Often servicemembers with clear medical histories of PTSD improperly receive “bad paper” discharges rather than receiving a medical discharge or being retained in the military for treatment and rehabilitation.  The Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act would grant certain veterans with “bad paper” discharges limited access to VA mental healthcare services.

Quick facts:

  • Since 2009, the Army has separated at least 22,000 combat veterans who had been diagnosed with mental health disabilities or traumatic brain injury (TBI) for alleged misconduct, despite reforms intended to halt the administrative separations of veterans
    suffering from service-related conditions.

 

  • According to a 2012 VA report, 22 veterans per day commit suicide.  Preliminary evidence collected by VA suggests that there are decreased rates of suicide among veterans receiving VA health care as opposed to veterans who do not.

 

  • Depending on the circumstances, veterans with “bad paper” may not be eligible for a broad array of VA healthcare and benefits, including mental healthcare services that may be critical in the case of veterans with a history of PTSD or other mental illness.

 

  • A similar exception to standard VA access rules exists for military sexual trauma (MST).  In the case of MST, veterans are eligible for MST-related care with VA regardless of their discharge classification and VA healthcare enrollment status.

The Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act would:

  • Require VA to create a program to provide initial mental health assessments and urgent healthcare services to veterans at risk of suicide or harming others, even if they have a “bad paper” discharge –
    Currently, VHA may only accept veterans with bad paper discharges after a lengthy characterization of service review or as a humanitarian case.  This bill would give at-risk veterans a direct route into VA for emergency mental healthcare.

 

  • Requires a third-party study of veteran suicide – The required study would review the effect of combat service on veteran suicide rates, as well as the rate and method of suicide among veterans who have received healthcare from VHA and
    those who have not.

For more information or to cosponsor Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act, please contact Mike Wakefield (mike.wakefield@mail.house.gov) in Rep. Mike Coffman’s (R-CO) office or Aaron Wasserman
(Aaron.Wasserman@mail.house.gov) in Rep. Derek Kilmer’s (D-WA) office.

Sincerely,

Mike Coffman