09

Jan

Donald Trump Expands Mental Health Benefits For Veterans

President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday to provide more benefits to service members transitioning from the military to civilian life in an effort to decrease veteran suicides.

Veterans who have recently left the military are between two and three times more likely to commit suicide than active duty service members, and nearly 20% of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.

The order directs the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs to submit a plan within 60 days to provide “seamless access to mental health treatment and suicide prevention resources.”

“We want them to get the highest care and the care they so richly deserve,” Trump said.

VA Secretary David Shulkin pledged that in 60 days, the VA will begin offering a full year of mental health care to all departing service members. He said they will be pre-enrolled before they leave the military.

“Currently, up until your executive order, only 40 percent of those service members had coverage in the VA to get mental health,” Shulkin said at a White House signing ceremony. “Now, 100 percent will have that coverage.”

White House officials said the Department of Defense also plans to start the transition process sooner, so it’s less abrupt, although the details and timetables are still being worked out.

The order marks another step toward delivering on the president’s pledges to improve services and care for veterans and to modernize the VA, which has been buffeted in recent years by crisis after crisis.

Trump signed laws last year aimed at expediting the appeals process for veterans’ benefits and extending the so-called choice program, which allows veterans more choices about where they get health care when the VA can’t provide it.