Senate Veterans’ Committee Considers Burr Mental Health Bill

Legislation would provide incentives for veterans to get treatment for PTSD and other mental health disorders

The U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs today heard testimony on the Veterans Mental Health Treatment First Act (S.2573) sponsored by Senator Richard Burr, the Ranking Member on the committee. The legislation would place a greater emphasis on treating veterans with mental health disorders and establish wellness incentives for veterans seeking treatment.

"Our current system sees far too many veterans diagnosed with a service-related mental illness that gets worse over time." Burr said. "We owe it to our veterans to do better. My legislation would make treatment, wellness, and recovery the top priority. It would allow veterans to enter into a mental health treatment program and provide them with a wellness stipend, so they can still provide for their families while they recover."

Under the legislation, veterans who enroll in the voluntary program would work with a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) clinician to develop an individualized mental health treatment plan. Any veteran who is diagnosed with PTSD, depression, or an anxiety disorder related to their military service would be eligible, regardless of their disability claims status. Those who enroll in the program would receive stipends to help them defray their living costs and to help them focus on their recovery. At the end of the treatment program, veterans can apply for disability compensation if they so choose.

The Veterans Disability Benefits Commission and the Dole-Shalala Commission has recommended the VA take a more aggressive approach to treating mental health disorders, especially PTSD.