On Tuesday, January 9, 2018, President Trump signed an Executive Order on “Supporting Our Veterans During Their Transition from Uniformed Service to Civilian Life.”
The major focus of this order will be to reduce veteran suicide. In their first year after discharge, veterans are at a particularly high risk for suicide—1½ to 2 times more than any other population group. According to a fact sheet on the Executive Order issued by the White House, only about 50% of those who need mental health care during this time period seek or receive it, and only about half of those who do receive it, only receive adequate care.
Over the next 2 months, the Executive Order directs the Secretaries of the Department of Defense (DoD), Veterans Affairs (VA), and Homeland Security to create and begin implementing a Joint Action Plan to provide “seamless access to mental health treatment and suicide prevention resources for transitioning uniformed service members in the year” following military service.
Starting on March 9, 2018, the order will provide all transitioning veterans with mental health care for at least a year after their discharge, regardless of service-connection.
While all of the details have not yet been worked out, the expansion of care is expected to include expanding peer group sessions to all of the VA’s Whole Health facilities. Whole Health centers provide support by encouraging veterans to connect with others, share their stories, and set goals.
The DoD will also expand its Military One Source program to allow veterans to use it for a full year after discharge rather than the 180 days currently allowed.
In addition, the VA announced four new technology initiatives designed to help expand health care access. The VA’s Anywhere to Anywhere, which uses telehealth technology to provide remote care to veterans anywhere in the country, will be expanded. VA Video Connect, an app that connects providers with veterans anywhere in the country via their mobile phone or computer, will also be expanded. The new Online Scheduling Tool will be introduced at over 100 VA healthcare facilities around the nation so that veterans can schedule appointments from their computers or mobile phones. Finally, the VA will launch their Access and Quality Tool, allowing veterans to have online access to both wait times at VA facilities and quality-of-care data.
Calling the order a “historic step to make sure that our incredible veterans are taken care of in a proper manner,” President Trump stated:
“We must ensure that our veterans are given the care and support they so richly deserve. That is our unwavering commitment to those who served under the flag of the United States.”