Remove Barriers for Veterans Access to Mental Health Care

Written by

U.S. Rep. Charles B. Rangel
U.S. Rep. Charles B. Rangel The Honorable Charles B. Rangel is serving his 22nd term as the Representative from the 13th Congressional District, which stretches from upper Manhattan to northwest Bronx. A founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, he made history as the first African American member of Congress to lead the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. He is a member of the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Over the past several years, suicide rates among our veterans have increased significantly, to nearly 18 each day.  Many of these cases are the result of the inability of our nation’s veterans to access the care they need, when they need it.

Congress has a responsibility to provide our veterans with the best medical care, which can be further expanded through access to telemedicine.

These brave men and women have made immeasurable sacrifices for our country, and as a result, many suffer from unique deployment-related health conditions.  An increasing number of our veterans suffer from a variety of mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries, and depression.

For these reasons, I introduced H.R. 6107, the Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support Act of 2012, which will permit U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health professionals, including contractors, to practice telemedicine across state borders if they are qualified and practice within the authorized scope of practice.  My bill, which has received bipartisan support in the House, removes outdated and cumbersome location requirements, empowering veterans, especially those suffering from deployment-related mental health conditions, to seek the help they need.

After ten years of military conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been overwhelmed with the treatment of veterans suffering from deployment-related conditions.  This bill will allow it to maximize its already scarce resources.  In addition, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced it will add 1,600 mental health professionals.  It is critical that Congress passes legislation to ensure that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs takes full advantage of telemedicine to help as many veterans as possible.  This legislation will not cost the taxpayers a penny, and should save money in the long run.

Veterans are often separated from their primary mental health professional due to unnecessary regulations, often leading to dire consequences.  This no-cost, common sense fix will be an important improvement for the country’s veterans and their ability to access the care they need, have earned, and rightfully deserve.

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