An executive order signed by President Donald Trump aims to ensure that all transitioning service members have access to mental health care through the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) at least a year after they leave active duty.
“We must ensure that our veterans are given the care and support they so richly deserve. That is our unwavering commitment to those who served under the flag of the United States,” Trump said.
Signed Jan. 9, the executive order directs the Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs to develop and submit a Joint Action Plan within 60 days to provide “seamless access to mental health treatment and suicide prevention resources for transitioning uniformed service members in the year following military service.”
The order also requires an update for the president within 180 days on the progress of the Joint Action Plan, and for further reforms that will provide veterans with adequate access to mental health resources in the future.
The press release from the White House notes that while many military veterans find that their service has made them stronger, more resilient people, there are still veterans who find difficulty in assimilating into civilian life, which can lead to mental anguish.
In an effort to expand and “modernize” healthcare for veterans, President Trump and VA Secretary Shulkin announced four initiatives which will “expand healthcare access for our veterans through technological innovation.
- An expansion of the VA’s “anywhere to anywhere” policy, which allows VA healthcare providers to use tele-health technology to remotely treat veterans regardless of geographic location.
- An expansion and greater implementation of VA Video Connect, an app which allows veterans to connect with VA healthcare providers from anywhere in the country.
- A new online scheduling tool will be implemented at 100 VA sites across the United States, allowing veterans to easily schedule visits via their smartphones or computers.
- Launch of the VA’s new “Access and Quality Tool,” which allows veterans to view wait times at VA sites, as well as important quality-of-care information
The press release also notes that the president has signed a bill providing an extra $2.1 billion in funding for the Veterans Choice Program, which allows eligible veterans their choice of private care if they live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA site, or experience other factors that otherwise prevent them from accessing VA care.