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U.S. military veterans can now receive free emergency mental health care

‘This expansion of care will save veterans’ lives, and there’s nothing more important than that,’ VA Secretary Dennis McDonough said

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U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley meets with U.S. Army leaders at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Grafenwoehr, Germany.

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley meets with U.S. Army leaders responsible for the collective training of Ukrainians at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Grafenwoehr, Germany, on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. U.S. military veterans are now eligible to receive free emergency health care.

Staff Sgt. Jordan Sivayavirojna, U.S. Army via Associated Press

The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that all U.S. military veterans who experience “acute suicidal crisis” are now able to receive free emergency mental health care through private practice or VA facilities.

Here’s what we know.

What happened: U.S. military veterans can now receive emergency mental health care, according to Kaiser Health News.

Axios reported that even though veterans typically have to be enrolled in the VA system to receive regular health care, that won’t be the case for emergency suicide care.

When the policy goes into effect: CNN reported that the “expanded care” announcement was made on Friday and the new policy has been implemented starting this week.

U.S. News and World Report said this change is expected to affect more than 18 million U.S. veterans, which is “twice as many as are enrolled in VA medical care.”

What they’re saying: “Veterans in suicidal crisis can now receive the free, world-class emergency health care they deserve — no matter where they need it, when they need it, or whether they’re enrolled in VA care,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough said, per CNN.

Why this matters: The Washington Post reported that 35% of military families experience limited access to psychiatric help.

A study published in JAMA Network Open found not only that there were limits in the amount of facilities for veterans but also in access to these facilities.

“This expansion of care will save veterans’ lives, and there’s nothing more important than that,” McDonough said.