Starting Tuesday, all veterans will be able to access emergency mental health care at any Veterans Administration medical facility or even at an outside clinic, for free. Department officials announced the policy Friday as part of the VA’s commitment to preventing suicide among veterans.
Starting Jan. 17, veterans in acute suicidal crisis will be able to go to any VA or non-VA health care facility for emergency health care at no cost – including inpatient or crisis residential care for up to 30 days and outpatient care for up to 90 days. Veterans do not need to be enrolled in the VA system to use this benefit, the Veterans Administration said.
This expansion increases access to acute suicide care for up to 9 million veterans who are not currently enrolled in VA.
In September, the VA released a report, showing that veteran suicides decreased in 2020 for the second year in a row, and that fewer veterans died by suicide in 2020 than in any year since 2006.
The final policy will:
- Provide, pay for, or reimburse for treatment of eligible individuals’ emergency suicide care, transportation costs, and follow-up care at a VA or non-VA facility for up to 30 days of inpatient care and 90 days of outpatient care.
- Make appropriate referrals for care following the period of emergency suicide care.
- Determine eligibility for other VA services and benefits.
- Refer eligible individuals for appropriate VA programs and benefits following the period of emergency suicide care.
Eligible individuals, regardless of VA enrollment status, are:
- Veterans who were discharged or released from active duty after more than 24 months of active service under conditions other than dishonorable.
- Former members of the armed forces, including reserve service members, who served more than 100 days under a combat exclusion or in support of a contingency operation either directly or by operating an unmanned aerial vehicle from another location who were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
- Former members of the armed forces who were the victim of a physical assault of a sexual nature, a battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment while serving in the armed forces.
Over the past year, VA has made efforts to stop veteran suicide, including establishing 988 (then press 1) as a way for veterans to quickly connect with caring, qualified crisis support 24/7; proposing a new rule that would reduce or eliminate copayments for veterans at risk of suicide; conducting an ongoing public outreach effort on firearm suicide prevention and lethal means safety; and leveraging a national veteran suicide prevention awareness campaign: “Don’t Wait. Reach Out.”