As a society, we owe so much to our veterans.
Sometimes, a service member returns from combat with visible scars. Others return and seem “fine,” but in reality, they’re far from it.
The RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research reports that 20 percent of veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan continue to suffer from serious depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 20% of those individuals experienced a traumatic brain injury.
Many veterans experience mental health disorders that include:
- Schizophrenia or bipolar disorder
- Substance use disorders
Fortunately, Congress has recognized the need for additional services for veterans. In late 2020, it passed the Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, which is intended to push grant money to veterans’ services organizations on the community level. The Act was signed into law on October 17, 2020.
The purpose of the law is to improve the level of mental health care for veterans by providing more funding to the VA and funding to groups outside the VA in local communities.
What’s included in the veterans’ mental health law
There are several components to the new law:
Title I: Improvement of transition for individual services from the VA to community service providers
Under this section, the law allows for increases in complementary care like yoga, meditation, animal therapy, and other benefits.
Title II: Suicide prevention
This component includes research into risk factors associated with veterans’ suicides, along with increased staffing and training of staff at VA medical centers.
Title III: Mental health research
Some of the research will include studies on whether living at high altitudes can raise the risk of developing depression or dying by suicide among veterans. The law provides for research on the effects of opioids and benzodiazepine on veterans, including as related to suicides.
Title IV: Oversight of mental health care and services
Under this section, there would be more integration of mental health services into VA primary care clinics and community-based mental health care for VA benefits recipients.
Title V: Improved mental health workforce
The VA will be required to ensure that each of its medical centers includes at least 1 suicide prevention coordinator and have a suicide prevention program for veterans who present to an emergency department or urgent care and are at high risk for suicide.
Title VI: Improved care and services for women veterans
This provision includes a text messaging capability for the Women Veterans Call Center, along with additional information provided specifically for women on the VA website.
Title VII: Other matters
Among other services, the VA will be expected to provide telehealth opportunities to veterans in rural areas or others who aren’t able to access in-person services.
Being a veteran matters
For me, representing veterans isn’t just business — it’s personal.
Though I was born in Cuba, the U.S. is my home. That’s why one of the most important parts of my life was serving 15 years in the U.S. Army, including in Desert Storm in 1990-1991.
When I represent personal injury clients as part of my law practice, it’s because I want to help people to receive the compensation they need after a serious injury. In a lot of ways, veterans are the same. Their injuries might be physical or emotional — both are of equal importance.