On 27 June 2017, the VA released its final plans laying the framework for providing emergency mental health coverage to former service members with Other-Than-Honorable (OTH) administrative discharges. For the older generations of veterans, the characterization of service was termed Undesirable.
Effective July 5, all Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical centers are to offer emergency stabilization care for former service members who present at the facility with an emergent mental health need. Under this initiative, former service members with an OTH administrative discharge may receive care for their mental health emergency for an initial period of up to 90 days, which can include inpatient, residential or outpatient care.
During that period of treatment, the VHA and the Veterans Benefits Administration will work together to determine if the mental health condition is a result of a service-related injury, which would then make the individual eligible for continued coverage for that condition.
According to the VA, this the first time a VA Secretary has implemented an initiative specifically focused on this group of former service members who are in mental health distress. “Suicide prevention is my top clinical priority,” said Secretary Shulkin, also a physician. “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.”
Veterans in crisis should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (press 1), or text 838255.
Editor’s Note: Actually, Vet Centers have been assisting combat zone veterans regardless of the type of discharge towards the same purpose for decades. The thinking is therefore not entirely new. What is new, is the medical clinical side of the house has moved one step further towards the VA Readjustment Counseling Service’s line of thinking. It also has a call center: 877-WAR-VETS (927-8387). It is unfortunate that we do not have one in the Lehigh Valley, but there are some north and south of us.
As of 18 July 2017