Representative Malinowski Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Better Support Veteran’s Mental Health

August 25, 2020
Press Release

(Washington, DC) Today, Representatives Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Neal Dunn, M.D. (R-FL) introduced the bipartisan VA Serious Mental Illness Act, legislation to support the mental and psychological health of our nation’s veterans. Across the United States, hundreds of thousands of veterans have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness (SMI), and the Veterans Affairs (VA) administration must ensure that best practices for treating SMI are shared across its medical facilities.

The VA Serious Mental Health Act would require the VA to establish a working group to review how the VA and its practitioners address mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders. It would also require the development and implementation of new clinical guidelines for the treatment of serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, persistent mood disorder, and other relevant serious disorders.

“As I’ve met with veterans across our community—through the VFW, the American Legion, and other local veterans organizations —I’ve received a consistent message of concern about mental health issues. I am proud to lead this bipartisan legislation ensuring that the VA deals more effectively with serious mental illnesses,” said Representative Malinowski.

“Suicide is on the rise, especially amongst veterans. These brave men and women have sacrificed for our country and now they need our help. It is an honor to join my colleagues in leading this bill. Streamlined clinical practice guidelines for mental health treatment will empower VA providers to better serve our nations veterans. Further, the House should work to swiftly pass S. 785, the Commander Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, which contains this proposal in addition to an array of other proposals I support that will improve veterans mental health care. We still have a lot of work to do; however, by increasing the resources our veterans need, we are taking a big step in combatting veteran suicide,” said Representative Neal Dunn, M.D.

 “Rep. Malinowski’s new bipartisan legislation will help VA practitioners better diagnose and care for veterans with serious mental illness— a key step in preventing veteran suicide. That’s why I strongly support this bill that builds on the Committee’s efforts to address every angle, factor, and intersection that may lead to suicide,” said Chairman Mark Takano.

The 7th district of New Jersey is home to over 30,000 veterans, many of whom depend on the VA’s healthcare and mental health programs. Some 60-70 veterans commit suicide in New Jersey per year. In addition to the VA Serious Mental Illness Act, Representative Malinowski has supported other major reforms, such as the Veterans' ACCESS Act of 2020, which would ensure that veterans are never charged for medical care involving mental health emergencies. Rep. Malinowski is also supporting other efforts by Congress to aggressively seek out creative approaches to tackle this crisis, from stronger funding for service dogs and equine therapy, to peer mentoring programs and community-led initiatives.

The legislation has been endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Modern Military Association of America, Minority Veterans of America, and the American Psychiatric Association.