House approves Young bill to improve VA crisis hotline

The House approved a piece of legislation introduced U.S. Rep. David Young (R-IA) on Monday that would improve Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) phone and text hotline responses for veterans in crisis.

The No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act, H.R. 5392, would require the VA to draft a plan to ensure that qualified representatives answer telephone calls and text messages from veterans in a timely manner.

“Our veterans, who have made such significant sacrifices on behalf of our nation and in defense of our freedoms, deserve quality mental health care resources which are accessible and responsive,” Young said. “There is absolutely no excuse for a veteran to contact the Veterans Crisis Line and not get the help they are seeking. Our veterans deserve better, which is why I have put forth this important bipartisan legislation to make critical fixes to the Veterans Crisis Line — fixes it clearly needs. I thank my colleagues for working with me to advance this bill and put our veterans first.”

Along with Young’s bill, the House approved two additional bills that U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said would implement “common sense” reforms to the VA.

“It’s incredibly disappointing that VA is so broken Congress has to pass legislation just to get the department to perform common sense tasks like answering the phone and providing emergency medical treatment to veterans who need it,” Miller said. “Nevertheless, we will keep working until the department is reformed into an organization truly worthy of the veterans it is charged with serving.”

The Veterans Emergency Treatment (VET) Act, H.R. 3216, offered by U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) in response to a veteran with a broken foot being denied emergency treatment, would clarify and enhance VA obligations to provide emergency care and prohibit transferring medically unstable veterans unless a veteran makes a written request or it is deemed clinically necessary.

The Vet Connect Act, H.R. 5162, introduced by U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), would require the VA to share medical records with community healthcare providers so that care can be coordinated between the VA and outside providers.

“These bills would help ensure all veterans have access to the help they need in times of crisis, and I’m proud to stand with my House colleagues in support of them,” Miller said. “Now, it’s time for the Senate to act on this legislation as well as the more than 30 other House-passed veterans bills the Senate has yet to consider.”

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