News

Obama plans executive steps to boost vets’ mental health care

Obama plans executive steps to boost vets’ mental health care

VETERANS HEALTH: President Barack Obama speaks at Fort Belvoir, Va., Thursday, August 7, about H.R. 3230, the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014. The bill gives resources to the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve access and quality of care for veterans.. Photo: Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama, weeks after signing legislation to fix delays in veterans’ healthcare, will unveil a series of executive actions on Tuesday aimed at improving access to mental health treatment for former service members.

Obama will outline the steps in a speech to the American Legion veterans’ organization in Charlotte, North Carolina, the White House said. His appearance comes after he signed a $16.3 billion bill earlier this month to provide veterans with more timely medical care and fix problems in the scandal-plagued Veterans Affairs Department.

The VA was thrust into the spotlight earlier this year after allegations surfaced that it had covered up the months-long wait times some veterans had to endure before receiving medical care.

In addition to outlining steps the government is taking to ensure that “inexcusable delays” in care at some VA facilities do not happen again, Obama said some of his executive actions would focus on improving access to mental health treatment.

He said service members leaving the military who are being treated for mental health conditions would now be automatically enrolled in a program in which mental health professionals help them move to VA care.

Currently, service members must be specifically referred to the program by their Defense Department providers or seek out the program on their own.

“Additionally, VA will implement a new policy to ensure that recently discharged service members enrolling in the VA health care system maintain access to mental health medication prescribed by an authorized DoD provider regardless of whether the medication is currently on VA’s formulary,” the White House said.

It added that exceptions would occur where the health care provider identifies a safety or clinical reason to make a change in medication.

Among other steps are the launch of a $34.4 million suicide prevention study involving 1,800 veterans at 29 VA hospitals and expanding suicide prevention and mental health training for healthcare providers and chaplains who work with veterans.

The White House said Obama would also announce a new voluntary partnership with financial lenders to make it easier for veterans to get mortgage interest rate reductions and reduced monthly payments.

(Reporting by Peter Cooney; Editing by Ken Wills)

Latest Headlines

in Sports

INSTANT REPLAY: The week’s best sports photos

cavaliers

A look back at some of the week's biggest plays in sports and the moments you may have missed.

in Sports

This weekend’s sports schedule

hockey

Here's a look at some of the big sporting events taking place this weekend.

in Music

This week’s top rock tracks

Zac Brown as Zac Brown Band performs during Music Midtown 2014 at Piedmont Park on Saturday, Sep. 20, 2014, in Atlanta.

LISTEN: This week's top rock songs, according to the latest Billboard chart.

in Sports

Sepp Blatter wins re-election as FIFA president

FIFA president Sepp Blatter speaks during a press conference in Marrakech, Morocco, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. FIFA will not reopen the vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and will publish at least some of the confidential report into the bidding process, Blatter said Friday.

Sepp Blatter's FIFA re-election came despite demands that he quit in the face of a major bribery scandal.

in Viral Videos

Paralyzed student walks across stage at college graduation

10-overlay5

Injured playing football in 2010, Christopher Norton walked across the stage with help from his new fiancée.