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Congresswoman Introduces Legislative Package to Expand Veterans’ Mental Health Coverage and Improve Veterans’ Experiences in Obtaining Health Care

Washington, D.C., September 16, 2020
Tags: Veterans

Today, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16) introduced two bills to improve veterans’ quality of care from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and center veterans’ experiences in federal policy making. 

Honor Our Commitment Act of 2020

The Honor Our Commitment Act would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide mental health care to veterans who received Other-than-Honorable (OTH) discharges, also commonly referred as ‘Bad Paper’ discharges. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found the OTH veterans population has higher rates of mental health conditions, suicide, homelessness, and unemployment.

“Combat veterans, sexual assault victims, and other servicemembers that have risked their lives and suffered the wounds of war should not be denied care,” said Congresswoman Escobar. “We lose thousands of brave veterans to suicide every year, and a majority of those are not accessing health care through the VA. This critical legislation will ensure that no veteran is left behind because they can’t cut through red tape and access the services and resources they need and deserve.”

Ask Veterans Act

The Ask Veterans Act would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to contract an experienced outside organization to conduct annual surveys of veterans’ experiences obtaining care at specific VA locations. It also requires the surveyors to consult with Veterans Service Organizations (VSO’s) for their critical insight on the veterans’ health care experience, and report on specific metrics such as appointment cancellations and wait times, ability to obtain needed care, and perceived quality of care delivery.

“We have a duty and responsibility to provide care to our servicemembers and veterans, and we must guarantee the care they receive is adequate and comprehensive,” said Congresswoman Escobar. “I’ve heard from far too many servicemembers and veterans who have issues receiving benefits and care. To gain insight on veterans’ experiences in our VA’s and ensure transparency, we need to listen, and take our cues from our veterans directly.” 

The full bill text is available here and here. These bills were previously introduced by former Congressman Beto O’Rourke. 

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