The Act requires the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide mental health and behavioral health services to former combat veterans who received Other Than Honorable or Bad Paper discharges. Up until recently, the VA denied it had the legal authority to provide any care to these veterans.
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“We’re now another step closer to getting this bill signed into law,” said Sen. Murphy. “The men and women who risk their lives for our country and suffer the wounds of war should never be shut out of the VA system and denied the care they need. This bill does right by our veterans – it’s the least we can do for them. I won’t stop fighting until every single veteran gets the mental health care they need.”
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, 62 percent of the veterans separated for misconduct from 2011 through 2015 were diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), or another condition at least two years before their discharge. Of those with a diagnosis, about 23 percent received OTH discharges, making them largely ineligible for long-term care. More than 500,000 veterans have received an OTH discharge since World War II.
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As co-author of the recently passed Mental Health Reform Act, Sen. Murphy has led Senate efforts to push the VA to change their policies and ensure that discharged veterans with mental illness continue to receive the critical benefits and mental health care they need. Sen. Murphy has argued that the VA still places unnecessary and arbitrary limitations on the length of care they provide to these individuals and has requested that the VA remove these limitations.