Tuesday, January 13, 2015

House Passes Bill Aimed at Improving Psychiatric Care in the VA

APA hailed passage yesterday by the House of Representatives of legislation that would help the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) attract and retain psychiatrists and improve the agency's suicide-prevention efforts. The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act is named in honor of an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran and suicide-prevention advocate who took his own life in 2011. The bill sailed through the House in December, but it stalled in the Senate after a retiring senator, Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), objected to the cost.

“Too often the men and women who serve our country do not have timely access to the mental health care they need and deserve,” said APA President Paul Summergrad, M.D. “Losing 22 veterans a day to suicide should move us all to immediate action. APA strongly supports the Clay Hunt SAV Act, which will make a real difference in the lives of many veterans by improving access to much needed mental health care.... We now ask that the Senate adopt this important legislation for our veterans.”

The bill would establish a pilot project encouraging more psychiatrists to choose a career with the VHA by offering medical school loan repayments on par with other government agencies and private organizations. Current policy makes it difficult for the VHA to compete with employers that offer employment incentives, such as medical school loan repayment. The bill would authorize the agency to recruit at least 10 psychiatrists into the loan-repayment program each year. It would also authorize a Government Accountability Office study of pay disparities affecting psychiatrists at the VA.

A summary of the bill is posted here. For more information, see the Psychiatric News article, “Push for Suicide Prevention Law Hits Senate Roadblock.”

(Image: Straight 8 Photography/shutterstock.com)


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