Congressman MacArthur pushing to expand mental health service options for veterans

New Jersey Congressman Tom MacArthur, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, wants the federal government to do even more to prevent returning war veterans from committing suicide.

In February President Obama signed into law the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, which is designed to provide better support for soldiers returning home. 

MacArthur is co-sponsoring the Veterans’ Mental Health Care Access Act, which would allow veterans with a Choice Card to access mental health care at other facilities not run by the Veterans Administration, such as community health clinics that are often more convenient and accessible for veterans. 

The reason for the legislation, MacArthur said, is that 22 veterans are committing suicide per day, 17 of whom never had a chance to access care at the V.A. The legislation specifies that the facilities be regularly reimbursed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the money wouldn’t go toward some quack treatment.

MacArthur said that veterans in his district — who number about 65,000 — deal with the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs benefits office. A 10-month probe by the V.A. inspector general’s office recently uncovered widespread problems at that office, including more than 31,000 veteran inquiries that went ignored for almost a year. MacArthur said his insurance business would have gone belly up long ago if he’d run it like that.

Moral obligations aside, MacArthur argues that the problem is also a practical one. “Our readiness today depends on having a force that know their country’s got their back,” he said.

MacArthur, a Republican, is in his first year in Congress and represents New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, which covers large areas of Burlington and Ocean counties. Some of the cities it includes: Bordentown, Moorestown, Mt. Laurel, Brick, Seaside Heights, and Toms River.  

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This post is part of our South Jersey Politics Blog

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