President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday aimed at helping veterans get access to mental health care.
The order instructs the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs to develop a plan within 60 days to provide “seamless access to mental health treatment and suicide prevention resources” for uniformed service members in the year following military service.
“We want them to get the highest care and the care they so richly deserve,” Trump said at the signing ceremony Tuesday afternoon.
Within 180 days, the departments must update Trump on the implementation of the plan and outline further reforms to increase access to mental health services.
Administration officials said the suicide rate among veterans in the first year following service is twice the average among veterans overall. About 20 veterans die by suicide per day in the U.S., the government estimates.
“That is just an unacceptable number, and we are focused on doing everything we can to prevent these veterans’ suicides,” said Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin.
“We will be covering all separating military members who are transitioning into civilian life. 100 percent will have a mental health benefit for 12 months.”
Shulkin said that, currently, only 40 percent of veterans have coverage that includes mental health.
“Now, 100 percent will have that coverage,” he said.
The program is worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year, officials said, with the money coming from the Defense and Veterans Affairs budgets.