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S. 785 - Commander John Scott Hannon

Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019


May 4, 2020


Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019 (S. 785) has many laudatory ambitions. It aims to more fully understand risk factors related to suicide, improve the transition of servicemembers leaving the Armed Forces, establish new clinical practice guidelines for mental health conditions, improve the care for women veterans and much else.


Nonetheless, it has significant problems that warrant attention in order to accomplish its primary objective of enhancing the wellbeing and preventing suicides of our nations’ veterans. 

Specific concerns addressed int his analysis of S. 785:

  • It doesn’t address or monitor suicide per se, despite its asserted intention to prevent suicide.  

  • It would duplicate, and hence likely erode, VA’s provision of non-emergency mental health care. 

  • It incentivizes the provision of non-VA mental health services in the same locales as VHA facilities.

  • It undermines the intent of the MISSION Act to create one overarching, coordinated program. 

  • It fails to set any standards for the clinical competency of providers who treat veterans in the community. 

  • It falls short of outreach efforts to inform veterans about VHA care. 

  • It fails to identify the VA Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention (OMHSP) as the administrator of the grants. 

  • MISSION Act failures are not adequately addressed. 

  • Far more needs to be known about the risk factors and health insurance availability for veterans who do not use the VHA who die by suicide. 

  • Funds could be diverted for non-VHA care.

  • Given the lack of scientific rigor associated with these proposals, it’s unclear what information would be learned from these studies/partnerships that would be clinically valid or valuable.

  • Scientific rigor is missing from the study.

  • Clinical Practice Guidelines (CPGs) will lack impact unless they have accompanying dissemination guidelines… 


Download the full analysis to read more about those problems and suggest potential modifications. Our comments are organized into four categories: (A) section that is our priority; (B) sections we support but would like to see modified, (C) sections we would prefer were removed altogether; and (D) sections that are missing from the bill that we recommend adding. 

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