July 6, 2017
Mental health coverage expanded to veterans with other-than-honorable discharges
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is expanding emergency mental health services to former service members with other-than-honorable administrative discharges.
This is the first time the VA has offered this benefit for this group of former service members, and it’s a welcome development for veterans’ advocates.
“Suicide prevention is my top clinical priority,” VA Secretary David Shulkin said in a news release this week. “We want these former service members to know there is someplace they can turn if they are facing a mental health emergency – whether it means urgent care at a VA emergency department, a Vet Center or through the Veterans Crisis Line.”
Secretary Shulkin first announced the enhanced coverage at a congressional committee hearing in March.
Under the new order, effective July 5, emergency stabilization care will be provided, regardless of a veteran’s discharge characterization, at any Veterans Health Administration medical center. For Kenosha County veterans, this care would most likely occur at the James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, Ill., or the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.
Former service members with an other-than-honorable – or OTH – administrative discharge may receive care for a mental health emergency for up to 90 days. This could include inpatient, residential or outpatient care.
During the 90-day period, the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration will work together to determine if the mental health condition is the result of a service-related injury, making the service member eligible for ongoing coverage for the condition.
Former service members in crisis should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (Press 1), or send a text message to 838255.
If you believe you may be eligible for VA Health Care, you can begin the process by contacting Kenosha County Veterans Services Officer Ali Nelson at 262-605-6690 or visiting the county Veterans Service Office at 8600 Sheridan Road in Kenosha.