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VA Secretary promises to expand mental health care to vets

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David J. Shulkin said he plans to expand mental health care to former service members with other-than-honorable (OTH) administrative discharges, a move that would be the first time a VA secretary has implemented an initiative specifically focused on expanding access to former at risk OTH servicemembers.

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David J. Shulkin said he plans to expand mental health care to former service members with other-than-honorable (OTH) administrative discharges, a move that would be the first time a VA secretary has implemented an initiative specifically focused on expanding access to former at risk OTH servicemembers.

The plan is to address high rates of suicide among veterans by giving them access to urgent mental health care.

Testifying at a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on March 7, Shulkin noted that many vets who commit suicide are not using VA medical care.

“The president and I have made it clear that suicide prevention is one of our top priorities," he said, adding, “We know the rate of death by suicide among veterans who do not use VA care is increasing at a greater rate than veterans who use VA care. This is a national emergency that requires bold action. We must and we will do all that we can to help former servicemembers who may be at risk.”

An estimated 500,000 former service members have OTH discharges. As part of the proposal, former OTH service members would be able to receive treatment at a VA emergency department, Vet Center or contact the Veterans Crisis Line.

Shulkin said he plans to finalize the expansion by early summer.

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