U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown's (D-OH) bipartisan legislation, the Veteran Partners' Effort to Enhance Reintegration Act (Veteran PEER Act) unanimously passed the Senate last week. Brown's bill would expand access for veterans to receive counseling and mental health services from qualified fellow veterans. The bill now heads to the House for passage.
"Expanding the peer specialist program increases access to veteran-to-veteran healthcare services, which can go a long way toward encouraging veterans to seek the care and treatment they deserve and have earned," said Brown. "The unique connection and shared experience among veterans can help improve communication and support for veterans seeking care within VA."
The Veteran PEER ACT would:
Authorize the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to utilize the peer specialist programs at VA medical centers.
Establish the peer specialist program in 50 locations around the country, with special consideration of rural and underserved communities.
Require the VA to report on the effectiveness and benefits of the peer specialist program to Congress.
VA peer specialists work with fellow veterans to provide a variety of services within VA's system, including mental health and addiction treatment, VA health services navigation, and assistance with accessing health services. Brown's bill will work to expand the peer specialist program and address program shortfalls.