VA Expands Mental Health Care to Veterans with Other-than-honorable Discharges

Kristina Derro, Esq.

Beginning this summer, the Department of Veterans Affairs will offer urgent mental health care to thousands of veterans with less-than-honorable discharges.

The announcement was made earlier this month by VA Secretary David Shulkin who noted that former service members are more likely to have mental health distress, as well as much higher rates of suicide. Shulkin also stated that he could not wait for legislation and needed to act immediately since a vast majority of veterans who have committed suicide, approximately 20 veterans a day, were not connected to VA care.

The VA also plans to hire more than 1,000 more mental health providers to assist the VA emergency departments.

According to VA statistics, there are as many as 500,000 former service members with less-than-honorable discharges, many for misconduct such as violence or use of illegal drugs. The Army has dismissed at least 22,000 combat veterans diagnosed with mental health disabilities or traumatic brain injury for alleged misconduct since 2009.

Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said it is an “outstanding” move by the new VA secretary as well as that the “policy change will forever alter the future for thousands of veterans and their families.”