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Congressman Matt Cartwright

Representing the 8th District of Pennsylvania

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Cartwright Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Give Greater Mental Health Access to Veterans

Mar 15, 2018
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA-17) introduced bipartisan legislation that would provide veterans with greater access to mental health resources. The Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act would allow veterans to seek treatment for service-connected mental illnesses regardless of when their conditions manifest themselves.

Currently, Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veterans face a five-year window to seek treatment for mental illnesses before losing their “higher priority status.” Serious mental health symptoms, however, may not manifest until years later; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was virtually undiagnosed in veterans of conflicts previous to OEF and OIF. Based on these time constraints, veterans from earlier military operations may be struggling with undiagnosed mental illnesses from their first five years after service.

“This is a commonsense bill to ensure our nation’s heroes receive the care they need,” said Rep. Cartwright. “My bill will eliminate this five-year limit so veterans can access vital mental health resources, regardless of when they served. As the VA continues to improve its treatment, a gap remains for veterans struggling with mental illnesses. We must close this gap.”

The Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act was introduced with the support of 19 original cosponsors.

“Service-connected PTSD and TBI, or ‘invisible’ injuries, often cause long-term mental health conditions in the life of a veteran,” said Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC-03). “Current law caps mental health treatment at five years, regularly disqualifying veterans who need it the most.  As an advocate for comprehensive care for our veterans, I am proud to support the Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act to fix this outdated rule.  I hope my colleagues will join the effort and get this needed change enacted into law as soon as possible.”

This bill is endorsed by AMVETS, American Veterans for Equal Rights, the Retired Enlisted Association, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America, and the Military Order of the Purple Heart.