plans executive steps to boost veterans' mental health care
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[August 26, 2014]
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
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
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.
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It added that exceptions would occur where the healthcare provider
identifies a safety or clinical reason to make a change in
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)
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