Burr Applauds Senate Passage Of Bi-Partisan Veterans Mental Health Legislation

Bill includes Burr’s homelessness measure

U.S. Senator Richard Burr today praised the Senate for passing the Veterans Mental Health Improvements Act of 2008 (S.2162). The legislation includes Burr's Services to Prevent Veterans Homelessness Act (S.874), which aims to prevent veterans at risk of homelessness by providing them with supportive services. The bill was approved by the Senate last night and will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

"Our veterans served our country with honor and they should not be forgotten when they return home," Burr said. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This legislation will help those on the edge of becoming homeless by getting them help from the community. It is much easier to prevent homelessness than it is to bring someone out of the cycle of homelessness. I applaud the Senate for passing this bi-partisan measure that will bring help to those who need it most."

Burr's Services to Prevent Veterans Homelessness Act would provide supportive services to keep low-income veterans in permanent housing so they do not become homeless. It would provide veterans with greater access to housing assistance, physical and mental health services, health insurance, and vocational and financial counseling. North Carolina is home to over 770,000 veterans and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that over 40,000 North Carolina veterans live in poverty.

The Veterans Mental Health Improvements Act of 2008 would also ensure veterans suffering from substance abuse and mental health disorders receive quality, coordinated treatment for both conditions. It would expand the availability of treatment VA offers for substance abuse, including detoxification and stabilization services. In addition, the measure would increase the availability of residential and outpatient treatment services for veterans with mental illnesses.

The legislation would also codify VA's new travel reimbursement rate for certain veterans who drive to their medical appointments at VA. The rate was increased in January from 11 cents to 28.5 cents a mile by VA Secretary James Peake. By law, the deductible veterans must pay also increased in January by a proportionate amount. The legislation would reduce the deductible back to the 2007 level.