In an effort to decrease the number of suicides among former service members, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that they will begin offering urgent mental health care to thousands of veterans who were less-than-honorably discharged, or “bad paper” veterans. VA Secretary David Shulkin announced the department’s plans Tuesday night to members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, adding that they could move forward with the plan without waiting for congressional approval.
“We have some authorities to do that,” he said. “So many veterans are just disconnected from our system. The 20 a day committing suicide are not getting the care they need.”
“We’re going to do whatever we can,” Shulkin continued. “We’re going to work with you. This is unacceptable, and we shouldn’t have to wait for Congress to force the issue.”
David Bellavia, Iraq War Veteran and President of EMPact America, agreed with the VA’s move to help former service members receive mental health help despite their discharge.
“Depending on the reasons for the discharge, many individuals have suffered from their combat experience,” Bellavia told American Military News. “Sometimes it’s because some had a difficult time acclimating to garrison life that resulted in a discharge. They should not be excluded.”
According to Military Times, Shulkin said that he hopes they can begin offering the mental health to “bad paper” veterans in the next few months. Shulkin also said that Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman what the one who changed his mind on the issue. Coffman proposed legislation last month that pushed for mental health care to other-than-honorable discharged veterans.