Durbin: Senate Passes Defense Authorization Bill that Includes Provisions to Improve Mental Health Services for Veterans

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed today by a bipartisan vote in the U.S. Senate, includes portions of the Mental Health ACCESS Act, cosponsored by Durbin, which will improve the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)’s suicide prevention, counseling, and mental health staffing while expanding eligibility for some services to family members.


“The Army says that when you draft a soldier today, you draft a family.  When PTSD strikes a service member or veteran, it also strikes a whole family,” said Durbin.  “President Obama recently issued an executive order to improve mental health care for service members and veterans.   That order will expand by 50 percent the capacity of the V.A.’s crisis line, to make sure that any veteran in crisis gets professional help within 24 hours.  The bill passed today would do even more while expanding eligibility for a variety of VA mental health services to family members.”


Last month, Durbin spoke on the Senate floor to urge passage of the Mental Health ACCESS Act – the bill, introduced by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and cosponsored by Durbin, on which today’s provision is based.  The bill requires the Department of Defense to create a comprehensive standardized suicide prevention program; expands eligibility for some VA mental health services to family members and strengthen oversight of the Department of Defense’s mental health programs and the Integrated Disability Evaluation System established by VA and the Department of Defense.  It would also promote the use of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to provide peer counseling for fellow veterans, and require VA to establish accurate and reliable measures for mental health services.