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H.R. 918: Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act

The text of the bill below is as of Feb 7, 2017 (Introduced).


I

115th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 918

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

February 7, 2017

(for himself, Mr. Kilmer, Miss Rice of New York, Mr. Meehan, Mr. Jones, Mr. Bishop of Georgia, Mr. Costello of Pennsylvania, Ms. Jenkins of Kansas, Mr. King of New York, Mr. Swalwell of California, Mr. Himes, Mr. Bergman, Ms. Kuster of New Hampshire, and Mrs. Radewagen) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs

A BILL

To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to furnish mental health care to certain former members of the Armed Forces who are not otherwise eligible to receive such care, and for other purposes.

1.

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act.

2.

Expansion of initial and urgent mental health care for certain former members of the Armed Forces

(a)

In general

Chapter 17 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by inserting after section 1720H the following new section:

1720I.

Provision of initial and urgent mental health care for certain former members not otherwise eligible for care

(a)

In general

The Secretary shall furnish to former members of the Armed Forces described in subsection (b)—

(1)

an initial mental health assessment; and

(2)

the mental health care services authorized under this chapter that the Secretary determines are required to treat the urgent mental health care needs of the former member, including risk of suicide or harming others.

(b)

Former members of the Armed Forces described

A former member of the Armed Forces described in this subsection is an individual who meets the following criteria:

(1)

The individual is a former member of the Armed Forces, including the reserve components, who—

(A)

served in the active military, naval, or air service, and was discharged or released therefrom under a condition that is not honorable except—

(i)

dishonorable; or

(ii)

bad conduct discharge;

(B)

has applied for a character of service determination and such determination has not been made; and

(C)

is not otherwise eligible to enroll in the health care system established by section 1705 of this title by reason of such discharge or release not meeting the requirements of section 101(2) of this title.

(2)

While serving in the Armed Forces—

(A)

the former member was deployed in a theater of combat operations or an area at a time during which hostilities occurred in that area;

(B)

participated in or experienced such combat operations or hostilities, including by controlling an unmanned aerial vehicle from a location other than such theater or area; or

(C)

was the victim of a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment (as defined in section 1720D(f) of this title).

(c)

Non-Department care

(1)

In furnishing mental health care services to an individual under this section, the Secretary may provide such mental health care services at a non-Department facility if—

(A)

in the judgment of a mental health professional employed by the Department, the receipt of mental health care services by that individual in facilities of the Department would be clinically inadvisable; or

(B)

facilities of the Department are not capable of furnishing such mental health care services to that individual economically because of geographical inaccessibility.

(2)

The Secretary shall carry out paragraph (1) pursuant to section 1703 of this title or any other provision of law authorizing the Secretary to enter into contracts or agreements to furnish hospital care and medical services to veterans at non-Department facilities.

(d)

Setting and referrals

In furnishing mental health care services to an individual under this section, the Secretary shall—

(1)

seek to ensure that such mental health care services are furnished in a setting that is therapeutically appropriate, taking into account the circumstances that resulted in the need for such mental health care services; and

(2)

provide referral services to assist former members who are not eligible for services under this chapter to obtain services from sources outside the Department.

(e)

Information

The Secretary shall provide information on the mental health care services available under this section. Efforts by the Secretary to provide such information—

(1)

shall include availability of a toll-free telephone number (commonly referred to as an 800 number);

(2)

shall ensure that information about the mental health care services available under this section—

(A)

is revised and updated as appropriate;

(B)

is made available and visibly posted at appropriate facilities of the Department; and

(C)

is made available through appropriate public information services; and

(3)

shall include coordination with the Secretary of Defense seeking to ensure that members of the Armed Forces and individuals who are being separated from active military, naval, or air service are provided appropriate information about programs, requirements, and procedures for applying for mental health care services under this section.

(f)

Annual reports

Each year, the Secretary shall submit to Congress an annual report on the mental health care services provided pursuant to this section. Each report shall include data for the year covered by the report with respect to each of the following:

(1)

The number of individuals who received mental health care services under subsection (a), disaggregated by the number of men who received such services and the number of women who received such services.

(2)

Such other information as the Secretary considers appropriate.

.

(b)

Clerical amendment

The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 17 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 1720H the following new item:

1720I. Provision of initial and urgent mental health care not otherwise eligible for care.

.

(c)

Study on effect of combat service on suicide rates

(1)

Study

The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, shall seek to enter into a contract with an independent nongovernmental entity to carry out a study on the effect combat service has had on suicide rates and serious mental health issues among veterans. To the extent practicable, such study shall—

(A)

compare the rate and method of suicides among veterans who have received mental health care services from the Veterans Health Administration and veterans who have not received such services from the Veterans Health Administration; and

(B)

compare the rate and method of suicides and the incidence of serious mental health issues among veterans who have served in combat and veterans who have not served in combat.

(2)

Report

Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit to Congress a report containing the study conducted under paragraph (1).