U.S. Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Neal Dunn (R-NJ) introduced legislation Tuesday aimed at supporting the mental and psychological health of veterans.
Called the VA Serious Mental Illness Act, the bill would require the Veterans Administration to establish a working group that would review how the VA and its practitioners address mental, behavioral and emotional disorders, as well as develop clinical guidelines for the treatment of serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, persistent mood disorder among others.
“As I’ve met with veterans across our community—through the VFW, the American Legion, and other local veterans’ organizations —I’ve received a consistent message of concern about mental health issues. I am proud to lead this bipartisan legislation ensuring that the VA deals more effectively with serious mental illnesses,” said Malinowski.
In New Jersey, more than 3,000 veterans depend on the VA’s healthcare system for their mental health issues. The Congressmen said in a release that 60 to 70 NJ veterans commit suicide each year. Malinowski has also supported other VA reforms, such as the Veterans’ ACCESS Act of 2020, which would ensure that veterans are never charged for medical care if it involves a mental health emergency.
“Suicide is on the rise, especially amongst veterans. These brave men and women have sacrificed for our country, and now they need our help. It is an honor to join my colleagues in leading this bill. Streamlined clinical practice guidelines for mental health treatment will empower VA providers to better serve our nation’s veterans. Further, the House should work to swiftly pass S. 785, the Commander Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, which contains this proposal in addition to an array of other proposals I support that will improve veterans’ mental health care. We still have a lot of work to do; however, by increasing the resources our veterans need, we are taking a big step in combatting veteran suicide,” Dunn said.
The legislation has been endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Modern Military Association of America, Minority Veterans of America, and the American Psychiatric Association.