Washington, DC – Today, Representative Steven Horsford (NV-4) co-sponsored the bipartisan Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act, which was introduced by Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-17). Currently, veterans face a five-year window in which they must seek treatment for mental illnesses before losing their higher priority status. This legislation would eliminate the five-year window and allow veterans to seek treatment for service-connected mental illnesses, regardless of when their conditions manifest themselves.
“We must renew our commitment to provide the men and women who have served our country in uniform with the healthcare services they deserve,” said Horsford. “The Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act would ensure the services and treatments that are available to recently discharged veterans are available to all who have served in combat. This bill maintains the role of the VA to treat service-related disorders and allows its healthcare professionals to diagnose mental disorders and illnesses according to established procedures.”
Currently, the VA offers healthcare treatment and services to our nation’s veterans who suffer from service-related physical or mental disabilities. While the diagnosis of physical injuries typically is made before or shortly after separation from the military, mental illnesses may not manifest themselves until years later. Serious mental health issues like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder were virtually undiagnosed in veterans of previous wars, having only been added by the to the American Psychiatric Association to the third edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) nosologic classification scheme in 1980. As the United States military and the VA continue to improve treatment for those who have served, there remains a gap for veterans struggling with mental illnesses that this legislation seeks to address.