Vietnam Veterans of America VVA

Veterans Administration Mental Health Treatment Benefits

Veterans in crisis should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (press 1), or text 838255.

Because suicide prevention is the Department of Veterans Affairs’ top clinical priority, it is important for former service members to know there is someplace they can turn if they are facing a mental health emergency — whether it means urgent care at a VA emergency department, a Vet Center or through the Veterans Crisis Line.

Veterans Suicide Prevention

Effective July 5, all Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical centers are prepared to offer emergency stabilization care for former service members who present at the facility with an emergent mental health need. What this means is that former service members with an OTH administrative discharge may receive care for their mental health emergency for an initial period of up to 90 days, which can include inpatient, residential or outpatient care.

During this time, VHA and the Veterans Benefits Administration will work together to determine if the mental health condition is a result of a service-related injury, making the service member eligible for ongoing coverage for that condition.

Key Facts:

  • It is estimated that there are a little more than 500,000 former service members with OTH discharges
  • It is known that the rate of death by suicide among Veterans who do not use VA care is increasing at a significantly greater rate than that among Veterans who do use VA care.
  • VA views the decision to provide immediate care to these former service members as a moral and humanitarian obligation. The focus is on saving lives.
  • All care must be provided within the VA health care system. VA is not authorized to use CHOICE or Non-VA Care for this initiative.

  • How To Access Services
  • A former service member may decide when he/she is in distress and requires emergency mental health care.
  • A VA provider will assess the patient to determine whether or not it is a true mental health emergency and requires immediate attention.
  • Former service members may enter the system to use this benefit by visiting a VA emergency room or Vet Center or by calling the Veteran Crisis Line.
  • Former service members may be treated using VA’s tentative eligibility authority, but will still need to have their claim adjudicated by VBA. If the former service member is subsequently found not to be eligible, they can be billed for services.
  • Rural Access

  • If a former service member in a rural area is experiencing a mental health emergency, he/she should go immediately to the nearest emergency room for an assessment. The local ER should notify the local VA who will make all attempts to provide the 90-day benefit at a Community Based Outpatient Clinic; via telemedicine, where available; or at a local Vet Center.
  • It is important to note, however, for this initiative, VA cannot pay for care provided at a community emergency department. VA can only pay for the 90-day episode of care once the former service member enters the VA system.
  • If an OTH former service member lives in a rural area and thinks they may be in need of mental health care, but he/she is not sure if it is an emergency, he/she should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-TALK (Press 1). They will notify the local VA who will make all attempts to provide the 90-day benefit at a Community Based Outpatient Center, via telemedicine, where available or at a local Vet Center if appropriate
  • Veterans in crisis should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (press 1), or text 838255.
  • VVA's Founding Principle

    "Never again shall one generation of veterans abandon another."

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