The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act (S. 785) was marked up and passed unanimously by the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs in early February. The legislation includes language that would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to consult with the Office of Personnel Management to create an occupational series for mental health counselors. It would also direct the department to compile a staffing plan for mental health counselors and document any barriers that exist to hiring them. NBCC has worked closely with staff from Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Sen. Jerry Moran’s (R-KS) offices on this legislation since they introduced it last year.
This bill is a large, sweeping measure that would make many changes to the way the VA currently provides mental health services to veterans. Now that it has passed unanimously out of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, it has a very real chance of coming before the full Senate for a vote. Our government affairs team will continue to track this legislation and push for it to come up for a vote in both the Senate and House of Representatives.