Veterans Groups, Providers Weigh in on Presidential Order to Help Military Members

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Veterans groups and mental health care providers are watching closely, as a new presidential order designed to increase services for military men and women takes shape.

The executive order, signed Aug. 31, builds upon efforts to prevent suicide, as well as establishes goals to hire more counselors and mental health professionals.

Kimberly Williams, with the city’s Veterans Mental Health Coalition, said she’s hoping another provision, aimed at encouraging partnerships, will yield positive results as well.

“This is critical because veterans all too often come home to local communities, which are now their new home base…that are not prepared to meet their health, mental health or social service needs,” she said.

Jason Hansman, with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said he’s encouraged by parts of the order that focus on military suicides, like one that would expand the Veterans Crisis Line. He said military suicides are currently occurring at a rate “outpacing combat deaths,” with officials reporting 38 suspected suicides in July.

“We’re going to be looking at…this idea of being proactive toward veterans coming back,” Hansman said. “We’re going to take our cues also from our membership [at IAVA] as well, to see if they’re seeing any changes on the ground.”

The broad order calls for more research into mental health issues like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. It also creates a task force that will report its findings to the president within six months.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Jason Hansman as John Hansman. WNYC regrets the error.