To bring in more help to combat the threat of suicide for our veterans, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) officials want to abolish copay expenses for veterans dealing with mental health challenges.
On Jan. 5, VA officials published plans to reform the department's copayment rules in the Federal Register.
A statement made by VA Secretary Denis McDonough said the move is a way towards a much broader initiative for the prevention of suicide and to improve health care.
“Research shows the increased frequency of outpatient mental health encounters for high-risk Veterans reduces their risk of suicide,” McDonough said. “Through these efforts, VA will continue to address this national public health crisis by further eliminating financial burdens on veterans which may negatively influence their engagement in mental health treatment and their critical medication availability.”
The VA does not charge any additional fees for care provided in a department hospital to veterans using VA as their primary health care provider. Copayments for outpatient mental health care benefits range from $15 to $50 for veterans.
Even small amounts can be a barrier to veterans needing immediate assistance. Those who need to visit multiple times a month, usually to refill medications, can quickly accumulate high medical costs.
The new move would reduce financial burdens associated with multiple co-payments for both increased outpatient visits and medications that are prescribed more often.
VA officials announced last fall that veteran suicides dropped to a 12-year low of 17 per day in 2019.
The latest data available do not include the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which began in March 2020, but preliminary research by VA officials has not shown an increase in those numbers over the last two years.
The VA and White House have made suicide prevention a high priority for three years. Although suicide rates among veterans have decreased, they remain almost twice that of the general population.
Veteran Crisis Line: Veterans experiencing a mental health emergency can call 1-800-273-8255 and select option 1 to be connected with a VA staffer. You can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for assistance.