March 18, 2019

Representatives Levin, Roe Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Vet Center Eligibility

Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Representative Mike Levin (D-CA) joined Representative Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, in introducing the Vet Center Eligibility Expansion Act. The bipartisan bill would expand the eligibility to receive counseling from VA Vet Centers to members of the National Guard and Reserves or Coast Guard who served during emergency situations in the wake of a national emergency, major disaster, civil disorder, or drug interdiction operation.

“We must do more to address the epidemic of suicide among veterans in this country, and we can start by ensuring all servicemembers have the mental health support they need when they return to civilian life,” said Representative Levin. “Currently, National Guard, Coast Guard, and reserve servicemembers are exempt from receiving readjustment counseling services at VA Medical Centers, but they often face emotionally challenging deployments to natural disasters or civil disorders that require counseling. This bipartisan legislation is an important step in closing the mental health care gap for those servicemembers, and I will continue to work with my colleagues on ways to address tragic rates of suicide among our nation’s heroes.”

"It is imperative that we do all we can to reduce the number of suicides among those who served our country," said Representative Roe. "By allowing members of the National Guard, Reserve, and Coast Guard who are not currently eligible to access care at Vet Centers, we can rest assured that all those who serve in response to an emergency at the national, state, or local level are able to access the counseling, services, and support that they need and come one step closer to eliminating suicide among these brave men and women.”

“We applaud Congressmen Phil Roe and Mike Levin for seeking to expand Vet Center access to National Guard and Reserve members who might be considering suicide as a final option," said Sergeant Major (Retired) Frank Yoakum, Executive Director, EANGUS. "This expanded eligibility is a great step toward reaching our Members who have served their State and country and are in need of someone to talk to as they consider one of life’s biggest decisions.”

The Vet Center Eligibility Expansion Act is supported by the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS).