Posted: July 4, 2017
December 21, 2017
Posted: July 4, 2017
Posted: June 28, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 27, 2017
VA Secretary Formalizes Expansion of Emergency Mental Health Care to Former
Service Members With Other-Than-Honorable Discharges
Secretary Announced Plans to Expand Coverage in March
WASHINGTON — Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today released finalized plans that lay the framework for providing emergency mental health coverage to former service members with other-than-honorable (OTH) administrative discharges.
This is the first time a VA Secretary has implemented an initiative specifically focused on this group of former service members who are in mental health distress.
“Suicide prevention is my top clinical priority,” said Secretary Shulkin, also a physician. “We want these 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.”
Effective July 5, all Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical centers will be prepared to offer emergency stabilization care for former service members who present at the facility with an emergent mental health need. Under this initiative, 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.
Since Secretary Shulkin announced his intent in March to expand VA mental health coverage to service members with OTH administrative discharges, VA has worked with key internal and external stakeholders, including members of Congress, Veterans Service Organizations and community partners on the issue.
Veterans in crisis should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (press 1), or text 838255.
Posted: May 8, 2017
Military Sexual Trauma
Help with VA Services and Benefits
For help with treatment and health care related to experiences of MST, please contact your local VA Medical Center and ask to speak to the MST Coordinator.
For help with disability compensation related to MST, please contact the MST Coordinator at your local Veterans Benefits Administration Regional Office.
Standing Together to Empower Military Sexual Trauma Survivors
Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is an annual campaign in April to raise public awareness about sexual assault. In its SAAM campaign, VA focuses in particular on sexual assault and sexual harassment occurring during military service – also known as “military sexual trauma” or “MST.” This year, VA’s national theme for SAAM activities is “Standing Together to Empower Military Sexual Trauma Survivors”.
Reflecting on the theme, Timiko Ilion, LPMHC, the MST Coordinator at the Jackson (MS) VA Medical Center, comments that it is about “people from all walks of life embracing one another and providing encouragement to all survivors of military sexual trauma….letting them know that they are not alone and that there is hope, strength, and solidarity for better days ahead.” Rebecca Robinson, LCSW, the MST Coordinator at the White River Junction VA Medical Center, notes that the theme reminds her of the work she does throughout the year to include survivors’ voices in any outreach or educational efforts she engages in. “Veterans in my groups offer thoughts that I subsequently read to the participants I’m presenting to. It gives survivors a chance to speak for themselves and advocate, and feel empowered to be part of our MST response in Vermont.”
In VA, Veterans who experienced MST have access to a wide range of services to assist them in their recovery. MST-related treatment is available at all VA medical facilities and all treatment for physical and mental health conditions related to experiences of MST is provided free of charge. Veterans may be eligible for free MST-related care even if they are not eligible for other VA services, and service connection (VA disability compensation) is not required. No documentation of MST experiences is required. In addition, every VA healthcare system has an MST Coordinator who serves as a contact person for MST-related issues at the facility and can help Veterans access relevant VA services and programs.
Sadly, about 1 in 4 women and 1 in 100 men seen for VA health care report a history of MST when screened by a VA provider. Although the percentage among women is much higher, given the far greater number of men in military service, there are significant numbers of both men and women who have experienced MST. In fact, over 40% of the Veterans seen in VA who disclose MST are men.
Because of this, MST Coordinators and other VA staff make special efforts during SAAM to show support for Veterans who experienced MST, by hosting awareness-raising and educational events. Also, VA’s Make the Connection website has video clips of Veterans sharing their stories of recovery, as a reminder that survivors are not alone in having experienced MST or in having the strength to recover.
For more information, Veterans can speak with a VA health care provider, contact the MST Coordinator at their nearest VA medical center, or contact their local Vet Center. A list of VA and Vet Center facilities can be found at www.va.gov. VA staff can find information on the VA intranet at http://vaww.mst.va.gov.
Military sexual trauma (MST) is the term that the Department of Veterans Affairs uses to refer to sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that occurred while the Veteran was in the military. It includes any sexual activity in which one is involved against one’s will – he or she may have been pressured into sexual activities (for example, with threats of negative consequences for refusing to be sexually cooperative or with implied faster promotions or better treatment in exchange for sex), may have been unable to consent to sexual activities (for example, when intoxicated), or may have been physically forced into sexual activities. Other experiences that fall into the category of MST include unwanted sexual touching or grabbing; threatening, offensive remarks about a person’s body or sexual activities; and/or threatening or unwelcome sexual advances.
Both women and men can experience MST during their service. All Veterans seen at Veterans Health Administration facilities are asked about experiences of sexual trauma because we know that any type of trauma can affect a person’s physical and mental health, even many years later. We also know that people can recover from trauma. VA has free services to help Veterans do this. You do not need to have a VA disability rating (i.e., “service connected”) to receive these services and may be able to receive services even if you are not eligible for other VA care. You do not need to have reported the incident(s) when they happened or have other documentation that they occurred.
This website has information about the health care services that VA has available for Veterans who experienced MST. For information about VA disability compensation for conditions related to MST, please view this fact sheet about Disability Compensation for Personal Assault or Military Sexual Trauma.
This short video provides information about the types of incidents that constitute MST, the effects of MST on survivors and the services available to Veterans who have experienced MST:
Posted: March 17, 2017
Posted: February 1, 2017
Posted: January 14, 2017
Department of Defense Extends Online Military Exchange Shopping Privileges to Veterans
Press OperationsRelease No: NR-010-17
Jan. 13, 2017 PRINT | E-MAIL The Department of Defense announced a policy change that will extend limited online military exchange shopping privileges to all honorably discharged veterans of the military.
The veterans online shopping benefit will be effective this Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
While shopping privileges exclude the purchase of uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products, it includes the Exchange Services’ dynamic online retail environment known so well to service members and their families. This policy change follows careful analysis, coordination and strong public support.
“We are excited to provide these benefits to honorably discharged veterans to recognize their service and welcome them home to their military family,” said Peter Levine, performing the duties for the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
“In addition, this initiative represents a low-risk, low-cost opportunity to help fund Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs in support of service members’ and their families’ quality of life. And it’s just the right thing to do,” Levine added.
The online benefit will also strengthen the exchanges’ online businesses to better serve current patrons. Inclusion of honorably discharged veterans would conservatively double the exchanges’ online presence, thereby improving the experience for all patrons through improved vendor terms, more competitive merchandise assortments, and improved efficiencies, according to DoD officials.
“As a nation, we are grateful for the contributions of our service members. Offering this lifetime online benefit is one small, tangible way the nation can say, ‘Thank you’ to those who served with honor,” Levine said.