Today Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema co-sponsored the bi-partisan Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act. Currently, veterans face a five-year window in which they must seek treatment for mental illnesses before losing their higher priority status. This legislation would eliminate the five-year window and allow veterans to seek treatment for service-connected mental illnesses, regardless of when their conditions manifest themselves.
A recent study by the Department of Veterans Affairs revealed that an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide each day -- an alarmingly higher average than those who die from combat.
"Our nation's returning heroes deserve our immediate and ongoing attention," said Sinema. "The plague of suicide and mental illness remains prevalent among our veterans. This bill will strengthen our promise to do right by the men and women who have risked their lives to keep our nation great. Congress has a moral obligation to come together and get this done."
Currently the VA offers healthcare treatment and services to our nation's veterans who suffer from service-related physical or mental disabilities. While the diagnosis of physical injuries typically is made before or shortly after separation from the military, mental illnesses may not manifest themselves until years later. Serious mental health issues like post traumatic stress disorder were virtually undiagnosed in veterans of conflicts previous to OEF and OIF, having only been added by the to the American Psychiatric Association to the third edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) nosologic classification scheme in 1980. As the United States military and the VA continue to improve treatment for those who have served, there remains a gap for veterans struggling with mental illnesses.