President signs executive order on mental health care options for vets

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Transitioning service members and veterans can now receive up to a year of mental health care from the Veterans Affairs Department after discharge from the service, according to an executive order President Donald J. Trump signed today.

Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin says veterans will be able to use VA or the private sector.

"That 12-month period after you leave service is the highest risk for suicide", Shulkin told reporters.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order to expand mental health care for veterans as they transition from military to civilian life Tuesday. He says this administration needs to focus on a more comprehensive approach to fixing issues facing veterans rather than executive orders.

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Trump said his administration wants veterans to get "the highest care and the care they so richly deserve", citing the passage of legislation a year ago that gave VA more flexibility to remove employees identified as problems. "These dedicated men and women have put their lives on the line to protect our nation and our American way of life, and we owe them a debt we can never repay". An estimated 20 USA veterans die by suicide each day, and President Trump past year tasked incoming VA Secretary David Shulkin with getting that number to zero.

Shulkin identified veteran suicide as one of the administration's top priorities, stating that veterans who left the military within a year are almost twice as likely to commit suicide as any other age group.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in VA news release that his department looks forward to continuing to work with VA and making sure that veterans receive the care they need.

The numbers for veterans in their first year out of uniform are stark, compared with their active duty peers: Recent vets are almost three times more likely to commit suicide than those still in uniform, according to a study from the Naval Postgraduate School.

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He said the moves will be paid for with existing money in the budgets of the Departments of Defense and Veteran Affairs. "During this critical phase, many transitioning service members may not qualify for enrollment in health care", he said.

"The issue here is looking at transition as a process, and not an event", the official said.

- Extend DoD's "Be There Peer Support Call and Outreach Center" services to provide peer support for veterans in the year following separation from uniformed service.

According to the VA, approximately 20 veterans died by suicide each day in 2014.

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