Why Obama's Mental-Health Initiatives Will Leave Many Troubled Vets Without Help

Eric Katz | National Journey | September 4, 2014

President Obama last week unveiled a series of measures to improve mental-health care for veterans, ranging from awareness campaigns to increased funding for brain chips to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.  Some advocates, however, do not believe Obama's efforts go far enough. Part of the joint Veterans Affairs and Defense Department-led effort, for example, is a boost to the inTransition program, which aims to provide a "smooth and seamless" change for service members who are moving or rejoining civilian life.

Obama's order will ensure all service members receiving Pentagon-sponsored mental-health treatment at the time of their separation are automatically enrolled in the program, rather than just those who seek it out. Defense and VA vowed to develop a "comprehensive plan" for each service member with a psychological disorder to coordinate the conversion from active-duty to veteran care.

Those changes notwithstanding, some worry the fix is cosmetic in nature and does not get to the deeper issue of access to care. Specifically, advocates say the administration still cannot proactively reach out to veterans to give them mental-health care they have never solicited or previously received. It also faces the challenge of helping veterans who do not develop mental illness related to their service until several months or years after they separate from the military...