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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Obama Announces Executive Actions to Improve Veterans’ Mental Health

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Tuesday, President Obama announced 19 new executive actions that the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense will take to improve the mental health of service members, veterans and their families. Speaking to a convention of the American Legion, Obama said these new actions will help improve service members’ transition from military to civilian healthcare providers, improve access to and quality of mental healthcare at VA and DoD facilities, improve treatments for mental health conditions such as PTSD, and encourage individuals to seek help by raising awareness about mental health.

His announcement comes in the wake of the recently enacted veterans’ health bill, which includes support for the VA to contract with non-VA providers to expand veterans’ access to care. The newly announced executive actions include:

  • Training DoD and VA employees to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions and help connect people in need to help;
  • Supporting TRICARE mental health and addiction parity by bringing services into line with the intent of the 2008 parity law (which did not apply to TRICARE);
  • Integrating peer specialists into primary care;
  • New investments in suicide prevention and early detection of suicidality and PTSD; and
  • Expanding mental health awareness campaigns and providing mental health awareness training more broadly.

Acknowledging recent disclosures of shoddy care at VA facilities, Obama said of the new executive actions, “we are going to get to the bottom of these problems. We are going to fix what is wrong. We are going to do right by you and your families, and that is a solid pledge and commitment I’m making to you here.”

Click to read the White House’s fact sheet on the new executive actions. The full list, with additional details, is available here.