US Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who is also a major in the Hawaii National Army Guard, has made veteran issues a top priority while in office. She has sponsored and supported several bills that would improve the lives of servicemen and women, including a bill that passed unanimously in the House Tuesday called the "Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act."
According to Gabbard, the bill would require the VA to provide urgent mental health care services "including an initial mental health assessment to veterans who participated in combat operations or who have survived sexual assault or harassment."
The bill also:
- Expands mental health care services to "veterans with an other-than-honorable discharge who have deployed and served in combat zones. Generally, individuals who have such discharges are not eligible for any veteran benefits."
- Requires the VA to offer mental health care services at non-VA facilities for veterans who live in rural or underserved areas.
“Our service members have selflessly put their lives on the line to protect and defend our country. Our country owes them a debt of gratitude, something we’re reminded of as we head into Veterans Day," says Gabbard.
"Unfortunately – and too often – our fellow service members come home and are prevented from receiving the care they've earned through their service. They bear the brunt of the human cost of war with an average of 20 veterans committing suicide every single day and the rate of mental health and substance-use disorders steadily rising since 2001. Their families carry this sacrifice and this cost throughout their lives."
And according to Gabbard, if we cannot afford to take care of our servicemen and women when they come home from overseas conflicts, we shouldn't be sending them in the first place:
Tulsi has been a staunch opponent to the current hawkish approach to war and international conflict pushed by the political establishment of both political parties. She believes the US shouldn't be so quick to escalate military operations.
In addition to this new mental health care bill, Gabbard has sponsored and supported several other bills in the current session that improve veterans health care, education, housing, and education opportunities.
The House approved the "Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act" just days before the nation is set to celebrate Veterans Day.