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Ranking Member Walz Statement Following Trump Executive Order On Veteran Mental Healthcare And Suicide Prevention

Jan 9, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Tim Walz (D-MN), released the following statement after President Trump signed an executive order on veteran mental healthcare and suicide prevention.

“When dealing with mental healthcare for veterans and combating the epidemic of veteran suicide, there is absolutely no room for partisanship,” said Rep. Walz, the highest ranking enlisted servicemember ever to serve in Congress. “I have long been a proponent of increased coordination between the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as a means to improve the lives and experiences of servicemembers transitioning from active duty to civilian life.”

“However, I am seriously concerned by the White House’s failure to provide any specific details to Congress or engage with veterans organizations in the community until the day of the executive order. The lack of detail raises significant concerns with regard to targeted funding, outreach, and the education of servicemembers and veterans about the new policies. The lack of transparency also raises skepticism of the White House’s claim that this executive order will not require additional funding.

“Additionally, this executive order should not be seen as an opportunity for the administration to push even more critical veterans services and programs into the private sector. Outsourcing mental health services from the VA and into the community would be a catastrophic mistake. According to RAND’s report, Ready to Serve, private providers are substantially less able to provide high-quality mental healthcare to veterans than their VA counterparts. In its 2014 report, RAND found less than 18% of TRICARE affiliates and less than 6% of all other non-VA providers were “ready” to deliver culturally competent, high-quality mental health care to veterans and their families.

“Finally, while there will always be more we can do to improve veteran mental health services and prevent veteran suicide, it is incredibly important that VA successfully implement existing policies, such as the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act, which I introduced in 2015 and which was subsequently signed into law by President Obama. Anything other than full implementation of this vital law is unacceptable, and VA still has much work to do in this regard.” 

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