"Currently, up until your Executive Order, only 40 percent of those service members had coverage in the VA to get mental health. Now, 100 percent will have that coverage." -VA Secretary David Shulkin
If you perused the internet at all in the last couple days, you may have seen news reports and videos of President Trump standing alongside service members during the singing of the National Anthem, at the CFP Championship game. (Photo: President Trump stands with service members during the singing of the National Anthem at the CFP Championship game on Monday/via Ledger-Enquirer)
America's Commander-in-Chief looked at home standing next to those who are protecting this country, perhaps because he attended military school himself. More likely, though, because of his great respect for these men and women who serve, which has been confirmed over and over in the last year; not just in words but in action as well.
Yesterday was a perfect example of that, as Trump signed a very important Executive Order aimed at helping our veterans in their transition from active duty to civilian life.
"We must ensure that our veterans are given the care and support they so richly deserve," stated the President on the White House website, "That is our unwavering commitment to those who served under the flag of the United States."
The new Executive Order signed by President Trump on Tuesday, will do the following, according to WhiteHouse.gov:
The Executive Order directs the Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs to:
• Within 60 days, develop and submit 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; and
• Within 180 days, update the President on the implementation of the Joint Action Plan and outline further reforms to increase veterans' access to mental health services.
• The status report will include the progress of reforms implemented through the Joint Action Plan and any additional reforms that could help further address problems that obstruct veterans' access to mental health treatment resources.
In addition, the White House statement noted that the Executive Order will 'modernize and expand' healthcare choices for returning vets with the following implementations:
• An expansion of the VA's "Anywhere to Anywhere" healthcare, which allows VA providers to use tele-health technology to remotely treat veterans regardless of geographic location.
• A greater adoption of VA Video Connect, an application for mobile phones and computers, which directly connects veterans and healthcare providers from anywhere in the country.
• At over 100 VA sites across the nation, a rollout of the new Online Scheduling Tool, which enables veterans to schedule appointments from their mobile devices or computers.
• A launch of the VA's "Access and Quality Tool," which allows veterans to view online both wait times at VA locations and important quality-of-care data.
President Trump has ensured continued access to care in the Veterans Choice Program by signing the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act, authorizing $2.1 billion in additional funds for the Veterans Choice Program (VCP).
• The VCP gives eligible veterans their choice of private care if they live more than 40 miles from the closest eligible VA facility, experience wait times over 30 days from the clinically indicated date, or face an excessive burden in accessing VA care.
President Trump announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs will adopt the same Electronic Health Record (EHR) as the Department of Defense (DOD).
• VA's adoption of the same EHR as DOD will ultimately result in all patient data residing in one common system, enabling the immediate availability of service member's medical records and seamless care between the departments.
And, finally, according to the statement, 'Secretary Shulkin has expanded access to urgent mental healthcare to former service members with other-than-honorable (OTH) discharges.'
[To read the full Executive Order, click here]
These changes, especially regarding mental health, are paramount to our returning service members, as the statement notes:
The suicide rate among veterans in the first year after their service is twice the average among veterans.
Veterans 3 to 12 months out of military service are 3 times more likely to commit suicide than their active duty compatriots, while those up to 3 months out of service were 2.5 times as likely, according to a study from the Naval Postgraduate School.
Approximately 18.5 percent of veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted his appreciation for Trump's Executive Order on Tuesday, saying, "@POTUS is right, we owe it to our veterans to give them the best. This Executive Order will improve veterans' access to mental health care resources and ensure they get the help they need after serving and protecting our country."
VA Secretary David Shulkin said in a USA Today report, "Currently, up until your Executive Order, only 40 percent of those service members had coverage in the VA to get mental health. Now, 100 percent will have that coverage."