WASHINGTON, D.C. /California Newswire/ — This week, U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-San Fernando Valley) signed on as an original co-sponsor to the bipartisan Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act, which is intended to allow veterans better access to mental health care. 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.
“Too many veterans have returned to our nation from serving in war zones and battlefields with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues,” said Cárdenas. “More importantly, far too many of our service members are not returning at all. Our active-duty forces, reserves and veterans are being decimated by suicide. We must ensure veterans in the San Fernando Valley and across America enjoy access to the health care benefits they have earned.”
Currently, the VA offers health care treatment and services to veterans who suffer from service-related physical or mental disabilities. While the diagnosis of physical injuries is typically made before or shortly after separation from the military, mental illnesses may not manifest themselves until years later. Serious mental health issues like PTSD were virtually undiagnosed in veterans of conflicts prior to Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, having only been added by the American Psychiatric Association to the third edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) 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. This bill seeks to bridge that gap.
“Too many veterans have returned to our nation from serving in war zones and battlefields with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues,” said Cárdenas.
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