Tester, Moran Spearhead Bipartisan, Bicameral Effort to Strengthen Mental Health Support for Native American Veterans
Senators introduce American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans Mental Health Act requiring VA medical centers to consult with local tribes and deliver tailored outreach
Continuing their effort to connect Native veterans with earned care, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) are spearheading bipartisan, bicameral legislation to ensure culturally competent mental health care for Native veterans at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers nationwide.
The Senators’ American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans Mental Health Act would require each VA medical center to hire a minority veteran coordinator trained in the delivery of mental health and suicide prevention services which are culturally appropriate for Native veterans. The bill would also require each facility’s minority veteran coordinator to work in tandem with a suicide prevention coordinator to contact local tribal leadership, consult with them on mental health care delivery, and provide the VA medical center director with an annual written plan for specific outreach to Native veterans.
“Native veterans need assurance that they’ll get top-notch assistance when seeking earned care from VA—especially when it comes to their mental health,” said Chairman Tester. “Our bipartisan bill will ensure VA facilities in Montana and beyond are working directly with Tribes on the ground to strengthen outreach and connect more veterans with the mental health care they deserve.”
“American war heroes come from every corner of our country, and as they transition out of the military, the VA must work to make certain all veterans have access to care,” said Ranking Member Moran. “This legislation would provide specific mental health outreach for American Indian veterans, who often live in rural or medically underserved areas, and training for VA staff to better serve veterans in the American Indian community.”
Last week, Tester and Moran led a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing to discuss VA’s efforts in addressing the needs of Native veterans across the country. During the hearing, VA officials were pressed on a variety of issues including providing culturally competent mental health care and partnering with Tribes to develop suicide prevention programs specific to Native veterans.
Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) is leading the legislative effort in the House of Representatives.
“As Chairwoman of the Veterans Affairs’ Subcommittee on Health, I remain committed to ensuring all veterans receive the health care they need. Our nation’s veterans deserve nothing less,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “For hundreds of years, Native Americans have fought to defend our nation. In order to create more inclusive and representative service offerings, the VA must provide culturally competent care, especially for our Native veterans. That is why I introduced the American Indian and Alaskan Native Mental Health Improvement Act in the House. I am glad to see Senator Tester and Senator Moran champion this legislation before the Senate, and I encourage all of my colleagues in Congress to support this important bill that will expand life-saving mental health resources for America’s Native veterans.”