Coffman and Kilmer Reintroduce VA Mental Health Bill

Reps. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) and Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) introduced a bill Tuesday that would give access to mental health screening for most military veterans. The bill is aimed, in part, at lowering the suicide rate among veterans, who commit suicide at a rate of 20 per day, according to an Aug. 2016 study released by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It makes provision for an “initial mental health assessment” for any military veteran who has not received a dishonorable discharge or court martial. This would include veterans with a “less than honorable”—or “bad paper”—discharge for behavior such as recurring violations of military discipline or drug use. “In all too many recent instances…this misconduct resulted from the service member’s experiences during a combat deployment,” read a statement released by Coffman’s office. A previous version of the bill was introduced to the House last year but did not make it out of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “It is critical that our men and women in uniform know they can reach out to the VA for help when they come home from a combat deployment,” Coffman said in the statement.