That is what Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said about his plan to expand urgent mental health care to thousands of veterans. Specifically, the Shulkin plan would include mental health services for service members with less-than-honorable discharges.
As reported in Modern Healthcare, Shulkin testified to Congress that of the 20 veterans who take their lives each day, about 14 had not been connected to VA care. Although the majority of veterans do not need mental health services, for those who do it can be a lifeline.
However, there is the question of which specific services would be provided and how to pay for it. Democrats were especially critical of the lack of clarity in the proposal.
A group of Senate Democrats led by Montana’s Jon Tester asked Shulkin in a letter in March to detail the new services, noting that treatment at VA emergency rooms is already offered to any veteran. The senators said Shulkin’s policy announcement was raising “more questions than answers for veterans in crisis.”
Providing mental health services to those veterans who need it is clearly a need. Doing so in a cost-effective manner, however, it is also important to insure budgets are balanced and veterans receive the highest value care they can for the money.
Postscript: The article in Modern Healthcare also cited another problem, I was not aware of: the extraordinary appeals backlog for disability payments.
He also said a massive appeals backlog of more than 400,000 claims from veterans unhappy with their disability payouts will still take nearly 10 years to resolve, even with legislation the House passed on Tuesday.