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Congressman Seth Moulton Co-Sponsors Bipartisan Bill to Improve Veteran Access to Mental Health Care Services

March 9th, 2016

Moulton: “My fundamental principle is this: Our veterans deserve the best health care in the world.”

Salem – MA – Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA) worked with Congressman Mike Coffman (R–CO) to introduce the Fairness for Veterans Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at improving critical mental health services for our nation’s veterans. The bill would provide veterans combating post-traumatic stress (PTS) with greater eligibility for mental health services and other resources. Currently, veterans with less-than-honorable discharges, or “bad paper” discharges, may not be eligible for a broad range of health care and benefits including critical mental health care services.

“My fundamental principle is this: Our veterans deserve the best health care in the world,” said Moulton. “This bill would make needed improvements to our mental health services for all our veterans, and in particular, it would ensure that veterans combating post-traumatic stress receive the care and benefits they have earned. We have a duty to provide this care, and I am proud to work with my colleague and fellow Marine, Congressman Coffman, to introduce this bipartisan legislation.”

“Increasing access to mental health care care is a critical step to combating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and in the case of veterans with severe mental health problems, access to these services may be life-saving,” said Coffman. “Twenty-two veterans die from suicide each day. This number is far too high and it is my hope that veterans with questionable, less-than-honorable discharges receive quick access to the mental health care they earned and deserve.”

The Fairness for Veterans Act ensures that combat veterans, whose condition should have been considered prior to their discharge, receive due consideration in their post-discharge appeals. A less than honorable discharge is often issued to service members for minor misconduct, including being late to formation and being absent without leave. These actions, however, can be linked with behavior seen in returning combat veterans suffering from PTS. Often service members with clear medical histories of PTS have been improperly discharged for minor misconduct rather than receiving a medical discharge or being retained in the military for treatment and rehabilitation.

The proposed legislation creates a presumption in favor of the combat veteran during the post-discharge appeals process. If a veteran was deployed to a combat zone and diagnosed by a mental health care professional as experiencing PTS or TBI as a result of their deployment, the military’s Discharge Review Boards (DRB) must consider this diagnosis with a rebuttable presumption in favor of the veteran.

This bill is a bipartisan effort supported by Representatives Tim Walz (D-MN), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Ryan Zinke (R-MT), Steve Russell (R-OK), Peter King (R-NY), Walter Jones (R-NC), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Patrick Murphy (D-FL), and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ).

To learn more about Congressman Seth Moulton visit https://moulton.house.gov, or find the Congressman on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

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