I have said repeatedly that in spite of our Be the One outreach efforts, most Legionnaires are not professional therapists. I view our role as connectors. We are friends and confidants of any veteran experiencing crisis and we are committed to helping veterans obtain whatever treatment and therapy they may need.
The American Legion applauds the groundbreaking announcement made by the Department of Veterans Affairs earlier this month. As of Jan. 17, veterans in suicidal crisis can go to any VA or non-VA health-care facility free of charge. Eligible veterans include those discharged or released from active duty after more than 24 months under conditions other than dishonorable. Also included are members of the reserves who served more than 100 days under a combat exclusion or in support of a contingency operations. Victims of military sexual trauma or harassment incurred during their service time are also eligible. Significantly, veterans need not be enrolled in the VA system to receive this benefit.
In announcing this benefit, VA Secretary Denis McDonough said, “Veterans in suicidal crisis can now receive the free, world-class emergency health care they deserve – no matter where they need it, when they need it, or whether they’re enrolled in VA care. This expansion of care will save veterans’ lives, and there’s nothing more important than that.”
The American Legion share his view that nothing is more important than saving the lives of the people who have defended our nation. It is why Be the One is The American Legion’s top priority.
Under the new benefit, VA will provide, pay for or reimburse treatment and transportation costs for up to 30 days of inpatient or 90 days of outpatient care. VA will also determine eligibility for other benefits and include referrals for follow-up treatments following the period of emergency suicide care.
Many incidents and issues contribute to a veteran experiencing a crises. Access and affordability of treatment should not be among them.
Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola
If you are veteran who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call the 988 national crisis line.