Executive Order Directs Agencies to Expand Mental Health Resources for Veterans

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By on January 10, 2018 in Agency News with 0 Comments

President Trump signing executive order

President Trump signed an executive order yesterday designed to improve mental health resources for veterans transitioning from active duty to civilian life.

The order directs the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security to develop a plan to ensure that all new Veterans receive mental health care for at least one year following their separation from service.

The VA said in a press release that the three agencies will work together and develop a Joint Action Plan to ensure that the 60 percent of new Veterans who currently do not qualify for enrollment in healthcare — primarily due to lack of verified service connection related to the medical issue at hand — will receive treatment and access to services for mental health care for one year following their separation from service.

In addition to working to expand mental health programs to new veterans, the plan includes the following:

  • Expanding peer community outreach and group sessions in the VA Whole Health initiative from 18 Whole Health Flagship facilities to all facilities. Whole Health includes wellness and establishing individual health goals.
  • Extending the Department of Defense’s “Be There Peer Support Call and Outreach Center” services to provide peer support for Veterans in the year following separation from the uniformed service.
  • Expanding the Department of Defense’s Military One Source (MOS), which offers resources to active duty members, to include services to separating service members to one year beyond service separation.

“As service members transition to Veteran status, they face higher risk of suicide and mental health difficulties,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David J. Shulkin. “During this critical phase, many transitioning service members may not qualify for enrollment in health care. The focus of this Executive Order is to coordinate Federal assets to close that gap.”

A copy of the executive order is included below.

Presidential Executive Order on Supporting Our Veterans During Their Transition From Uniformed Service to Civilian Life

January 9, 2018

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1.  Policy.  It is the policy of the United States to support the health and well-being of uniformed service members and veterans.  After serving our Nation, veterans deserve long, fulfilling civilian lives.  Accordingly, our Government must improve mental healthcare and access to suicide prevention resources available to veterans, particularly during the critical 1-year period following the transition from uniformed service to civilian life.  Most veterans’ experience in uniform increases their resilience and broadens the skills they bring to the civilian workforce.  Unfortunately, in some cases within the first year following transition, some veterans can have difficulties reintegrating into civilian life after their military experiences and some tragically take their own lives.  Veterans, in their first year of separation from uniformed service, experience suicide rates approximately two times higher than the overall veteran suicide rate.  To help prevent these tragedies, all veterans should have seamless access to high-quality mental healthcare and suicide prevention resources as they transition, with an emphasis on the 1-year period following separation.

Sec. 2.  Implementation.  (a)  In furtherance of the policy described in section 1 of this order, I hereby direct the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and the Secretary of Homeland Security to collaborate to address the complex challenges faced by our transitioning uniformed service members and veterans.

(b)  Within 60 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall submit to the President, through the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, a Joint Action Plan that describes concrete actions to provide, to the extent consistent with law, seamless access to mental health treatment and suicide prevention resources for transitioning uniformed service members in the year following discharge, separation, or retirement.

(c)  Within 180 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall submit to the President, through the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, a status report on the implementation of the Joint Action Plan and how the proposed reforms have been effective in improving mental health treatment for all transitioning uniformed service members and veterans.  The report shall include:

(i)    preliminary progress of reforms implemented by the Joint Action Plan;

(ii)   any additional reforms that could help further address the problems that obstruct veterans’ access to resources and continuous mental healthcare treatment, including any suggestions for legislative and regulatory reforms; and

(iii)  a timeline describing next steps and the results anticipated from continued and additional reforms.

Sec. 3.  General Provisions.  (a)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

DONALD J. TRUMP

THE WHITE HOUSE

January 9, 2018.

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

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