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Congress Passes H.R.918 To Provide Mental Health Care To Veterans

The House passed legislation H.R.918 - Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act, allowing veterans to access mental healthcare upon discharge from the military. Marine Corps veteran Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., introduced the Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act, on Feb, 7, 2017. It was reviewed by House Veterans’ Affairs Committee which then returned it to the house for a vote. The bill was carried by a unanimous vote in favor. Rep. Coffman served in both the first Iraq War and Operation Iraqi Freedom. It will now be sent to the Senate for a vote and then to President Trump to be signed into law.

Rep. Coffman released a statement today saying; "Today, this House sent a critical message to our men and women in uniform...that message is that you are not alone. We are here to help those suffering from the 'invisible' wounds of war.” This was bipartisan action in Congress. Both parties put aside political differences to show a unified front in protecting those who have protected us.

The major change of the Title 38 Chapter 17 is to add in section 1720I. This changes the requirement for the VA to provide mental heath care for those veterans with an other than Honorable Discharge. It sill denies those discharged with dishonorable and bad conduct discharges.

This bill defines eligible veterans as:

“(1) The individual is a former member of the Armed Forces, including the reserve components, who—

“(A) served in the active military, naval, or air service, and was discharged or released therefrom under a condition that is not honorable except—

“(i) dishonorable; or

“(ii) bad conduct discharge;

There are many more veterans who are now eligible for help. A reported 22 veterans commit suicide every day in America, so this action is long over due. Each veteran who is discharged with a less than honorable discharge may have had mental health issues in service and this could be a contributing factor to their in service troubles. It's important that they receive help.

A report released by the Government Accountability Office found 62% of the 91,764 service members separated from the military for misconduct between 2011 and 2015 had been diagnosed with PTSD, traumatic brain injury, or other conditions related to mental illness. These men and women were in many cases protecting our freedoms. We as a people need to as Abraham Lincoln said “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan”

Veterans are often in situations that would try the reason of any person. They made mistakes, we all have. They have been punished by the Military, which is correct. The Uniform Code of Military Justice(U.C.M.J.) is firm and swift. It prescribed a proper punishment for the crime. We do not need to punish those who gave part of themselves to protect us.

The H.R.918 - Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act is a grand step forward to help the soldiers, sailors, marines, and air men who desperately need help.