On Aug. 5, the U.S. Senate passed the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, major veterans mental health care legislation that has been working its way through the Senate since its introduction in March 2019.

The bill includes sections that would benefit psychologists, including a staffing plan for all mental health providers, which APA advocated for; a scholarship program for students pursuing a degree in psychology, social work or counseling; and a study on alternative work schedules at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that would allow psychologists to care for veterans during non-regular business hours. While these provisions are steps in the right direction, more must be done, and APA is actively working with congressional staff to ensure that APA’s priorities are front-and-center in future negotiations.

APA continues to work with the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on legislation that would include enhanced hiring authority of psychologists, a pilot program for prescribing psychologists within VA, and a stronger focus on safety planning.

APA is also advocating for an increased focus on lethal means safety, a vital component to suicide prevention and a critical aspect of the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) Roadmap. Any comprehensive piece of veterans’ suicide prevention must address lethal means access, particularly firearms and safe storage. According to VA’s Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report (PDF, 2MB), 69.4 percent of veteran suicide deaths in 2017 were due to a self-inflicted firearm injury, compared with 48.1 percent of non-veterans. APA will continue to push lethal means reduction as a central component of suicide prevention.

APA will continue advocating for research-informed legislation that will make a measurable impact in reducing suicide for our nation’s veterans.

For more information, contact Sophie Friedl.