News

Obama plans executive steps to boost vets’ mental health care

Obama plans executive steps to boost vets’ mental health care

VETERANS HEALTH: President Barack Obama speaks at Fort Belvoir, Va., Thursday, August 7, about H.R. 3230, the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014. The bill gives resources to the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve access and quality of care for veterans.. Photo: Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama, weeks after signing legislation to fix delays in veterans’ healthcare, will unveil a series of executive actions on Tuesday aimed at improving access to mental health treatment for former service members.

Obama will outline the steps in a speech to the American Legion veterans’ organization in Charlotte, North Carolina, the White House said. His appearance comes after he signed a $16.3 billion bill earlier this month to provide veterans with more timely medical care and fix problems in the scandal-plagued Veterans Affairs Department.

The VA was thrust into the spotlight earlier this year after allegations surfaced that it had covered up the months-long wait times some veterans had to endure before receiving medical care.

In addition to outlining steps the government is taking to ensure that “inexcusable delays” in care at some VA facilities do not happen again, Obama said some of his executive actions would focus on improving access to mental health treatment.

He said service members leaving the military who are being treated for mental health conditions would now be automatically enrolled in a program in which mental health professionals help them move to VA care.

Currently, service members must be specifically referred to the program by their Defense Department providers or seek out the program on their own.

“Additionally, VA will implement a new policy to ensure that recently discharged service members enrolling in the VA health care system maintain access to mental health medication prescribed by an authorized DoD provider regardless of whether the medication is currently on VA’s formulary,” the White House said.

It added that exceptions would occur where the health care provider identifies a safety or clinical reason to make a change in medication.

Among other steps are the launch of a $34.4 million suicide prevention study involving 1,800 veterans at 29 VA hospitals and expanding suicide prevention and mental health training for healthcare providers and chaplains who work with veterans.

The White House said Obama would also announce a new voluntary partnership with financial lenders to make it easier for veterans to get mortgage interest rate reductions and reduced monthly payments.

(Reporting by Peter Cooney; Editing by Ken Wills)

Recent Headlines

in National

Amanda Knox murder conviction overturned

FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2014, file photo, Amanda Knox prepares to leave the set following a television interview in New York. Knox is engaged to Colin Sutherland, a musician who recently moved to Seattle from New York, a person close to the Knox family confirmed for The Associated Press. Knox’s murder conviction in the 2007 stabbing of her roommate has been reinstated by an Italian court, but the former college exchange student maintains her innocence and vows she won’t willingly go back to Italy. Both Knox and Sutherland are 27. No wedding date had been set.

Italy's highest court has overturned the murder conviction against Amanda Knox, bringing to a definitive end the high-profile case.

in National

Time for Iran to make tough decisions in nuclear talks

In this March 26, 2015, photo, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, center, leaves a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. officials at a hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland. U.S. and Iranian diplomats gather at a Baroque palace in Europe, a historic nuclear agreement within reach. Over Iraq’s deserts, their militaries fight a common foe. Leaders in Washington and Tehran, capitals once a million miles from each other in ideological terms, wrestle for the first time in decades with the notion of a rapprochement.

Six world powers and Iran move closer to a deal, but there are still major disagreements.

in Sports

This week’s top sports shots

AP564917773040_12

A look at some of the biggest plays and best photos in sports this week.

in Sports

This weekend’s sports schedule

playball

A look at some of this weekend's biggest sporting events.

in National

Making headlines this week

AP193442892434_0

A look at some of the week's biggest headlines and the stories you may have missed.