WASHINGTON, DC–(ENEWSPF)–August 30, 2012. Today, President Obama will sign an Executive Order directing key federal departments to expand suicide prevention strategies and take steps to meet the current and future demand for mental health and substance abuse treatment services for veterans, service members, and their families.
Ensuring that all veterans, Active, Guard, and Reserve service members and their families receive the support they deserve is a top priority for the Obama Administration. Since September 11, 2001, more than two million service members have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan with unprecedented duration and frequency. Long deployments and intense combat conditions require optimal support for the emotional and mental health needs of our service members and their families. The Obama Administration has consistently expanded efforts to ensure our troops, veterans and their families receive the benefits they have earned and deserve, including providing timely mental health service. The Executive Order signed today builds on these efforts.
President Obama’s Executive Order
The Executive Order signed by President Obama:
Strengthens suicide prevention efforts across the Force and in the veteran community:
- The Executive Order directs the VA to increase the VA veteran crisis line capacity by 50% by the end of the year.
- Under the Executive Order, VA will ensure that any veteran identifying him or herself as being in crisis connects with a mental health professional or trained mental health worker within 24 hours or less.
- VA will work with the Department of Defense to develop and implement a national 12 month suicide prevention campaign focused on connecting veterans to mental health services.
Enhances access to mental health care by building partnerships between VA and community providers:
- In service areas where VA has faced challenges in hiring and placing mental health service providers and continues to have unfilled vacancies or long wait times, the Executive Order Directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to work with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish at least 15 pilot sites. In pilot sites, VA will contract with community health centers, community mental health clinics, community substance abuse treatment facilities and other HHS grantees and community resources to help reduce VA mental health waiting lists.
- Under the Executive Order, HHS and VA will develop a plan for a rural mental health recruitment initiative to promote opportunities for VA and rural communities to share mental health providers when demand is insufficient for either to support a full-time provider.
Increases the number of VA mental health providers serving our veterans:
- Under the Executive Order, VA will hire 800 peer-to-peer support counselors to empower veterans to support other veterans and help ensure that their mental health care and overall service needs are met.
- VA has launched an effort to hire 1,600 new mental health professionals to serve veterans. The Executive Order directs VA to use its pay-setting authorities, loan repayment and scholarships, partnerships with health care workforce training programs, and collaborative arrangements with community-based providers to recruit, hire, and place 1,600 mental health professionals by June, 2013. Since, 2009, the VA has expanded its mental health programs, hiring more than 3,500 mental health professionals since 2009.
Promotes mental health research and development of more effective treatment methodologies:
- The Executive Order directs the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education to develop a National Research Action Plan that will include strategies to improve early diagnosis and treatment effectiveness for TBI and PTSD.
- The Executive Order further directs the Department of Defense and Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a comprehensive mental health study with an emphasis on PTSD, TBI, and related injuries to develop better prevention, diagnosis, and treatment options.
Launch a government-wide collaborative effort to address these issues through a Military and Veterans Mental Health Interagency Task Force:
- The Executive Order establishes an Interagency Task Force, including the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, the Domestic Policy Council, National Security Staff, the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which will make recommendations to the President on additional strategies to improve mental health and substance abuse treatment services for veterans, service members, and their families.
Supporting our Military, Veterans, and their Families
The President has taken key steps to protect and strengthen the health of our military, veterans and their families here at home. Many of these initiatives are supported by agencies across the federal government and collaborative partnerships with states and communities.
- For the first time ever, 135 medical schools have committed to exchanging leading research on PTSD and TBI and will also train future physicians to better understand veteran health needs. More than 150 state and national nursing organizations and over 650 nursing schools have committed to ensure our nation’s 3 million nurses are prepared to meet the unique health needs of veterans and their families by educating the current and future nurses of America to have a better understanding of PTSD and TBI.
- President Obama signed the “caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010”, into law which helps our most seriously injured post-9/11 veterans and their family caregivers with a monthly stipend; access to health insurance; mental health services and counseling; and comprehensive VA caregiver training and respite care.
- The Department of Labor has proposed new regulations for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to support military families and caregivers. This rule would implement statutory changes to the FMLA, expanding leave to family members caring for veterans who have suffered a serious injury or illness.
- In July 2010, the VA published a historic change to its rules, streamlining the process and paperwork needed by combat veterans to pursue a claim for disability pay for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- The VA expanded its workforce by over 2,600 people to handle applications for disability pay. The VA is also using technology and new approaches to help veterans get their benefits by accepting online applications for initial disability benefits, initiating an innovation competition, launching pilot initiatives, and investing over $128 million in a paperless Veterans Benefits Management System.
- The administration is utilizing partnerships to reduce the stigma associated with seeking treatment for behavioral health issues. Make the Connection, a campaign launched by the Department of Veterans Affairs, is creating ways for veterans and their family members to connect with the experiences of other veterans and access the information and resources to help these families confront the challenges of transitioning from service to daily civilian life.
Licensing and Credentials
- Nearly 35 percent of military spouses in the labor force require licenses or certification for their profession. Many military spouses hold occupational licenses and routinely move across state lines, causing licensing requirements to disproportionately affect the military spouse population. The First Lady and Dr. Biden encouraged all 50 governors to pass legislation by 2014 to reduce the financial and administrative strains that 100,000 military spouses incur from trying to get their state licenses or certification credentials to transfer from state to state as they move. Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden encouraged governors to take Action in February 2012 when only 11 states had legislation on the books. 26 states now have measures in place to support military spouses and the initiative is on-track to meet the 2014 goal.
- The Department of Defense has awarded $180 million in grants to support military-connected public school districts. These grants support improved academic programs for military children. More than 400,000 students from military families across all grade levels are impacted by these grant projects.
- The Department of Defense has awarded approximately $25 million to military-connected Local Education Agencies (LEAs) this summer to focus on increasing student achievement and easing transitions through research-based academic and support programs.
- The Department of Defense, in collaboration with the Council of State Governments’ (CSG) National Center for Interstate Compacts developed the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children (the Compact) to address the educational transition issues of children of military families. The Compact covers transition issues including class placement, records transfer, immunization requirements, course placement, graduation requirements, exit testing, and extra-curricular opportunities. States adopt the Compact through legislation, and as a result, join the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3). To date, 39 states have approved the Compact and these states are home to 89 percent of school age children whose active duty parents are assigned to military installations in the United States. We will continue to work with leaders to encourage the 11 remaining states approve the Compact and become members of MIC3.
- VA eased the Post-9/11 GI Bill application process within the eBenefits portal, including transferability to spouses or children for service members with over six years of service. Servicemembers can now apply on-line to transfer the benefits of their Post-9/11 GI Bill to eligible beneficiaries.
- On top of the historic settlements completed by the Federal government and 49 state Attorneys General, major mortgage servicers will be providing relief to thousands of service member and veteran households. A review will be conducted of every service member household foreclosed upon since 2006. Those wrongly foreclosed upon will be compensated equal to a minimum of lost equity, plus interest and a refund for money lost because they were wrongfully denied the opportunity to reduce their mortgage payments. Additionally, these organizations will pay $10 million into a VA fund that guarantees loans on favorable terms for veterans.
- The Administration is working to end veteran homelessness through leveraging broad support at Federal, State, and local levels in both the public and private sectors. Working with over 4,000 community agencies, the VA and HUD have successfully placed more than 37,000 veterans in permanent housing with dedicated case managers and access to high-quality VA health care since 2009. To ensure we reach out to our homeless veterans, the VA created a National Registry for Homeless Veterans and established a National Homeless Hotline. Veteran homelessness was reduced by nearly 12 percent between January 2010 and January 2011.
- In 2011, VA helped save 72,391 Veteran and military borrowers with VA-guaranteed loans from foreclosure, a 10% increase from the prior year. VA has helped nearly 59,000 borrowers avoid foreclosure so far in 2012. The home loan guaranty program helps Veterans and their families purchase homes, often with no down payment required. The program expects to guaranty the 20 millionth loan in early November 2012.
- Using their Interest Rate Reduction Refinancing Loan, also known as the Streamline Refinance, VA refinances existing VA loans into new loans with lower interest rates, or adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) into fixed rate mortgages. In 2011, this program saved an average of $202 per month in individual payment reductions and 1.42% in interest rates. This equates to saving military and veterans $24 million a month and $293 million per year.
- The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Financial Education and Financial Access has helped military families identify predatory lending practices. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) established an office of service member affairs to ensure that the CFPB addresses the financial challenges that confront military families and strengthens protections against abusive financial practices.